URBANA — A Chicago man who maintained his innocence in spite of a conviction for molesting a young girl has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“The court has rarely seen this kind of mitigation,” Judge Tom Difanis said, in ticking up all the things that Samuel Sauls has going for him, including steady employment and service to his country in the Army.
Nonetheless, the veteran jurist said, both Sauls and anyone similarly situated who believes they can take advantage of children unable to defend themselves must be deterred.
A Champaign County jury in early August convicted Sauls, 27, of one count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and acquitted him of a second count involving a second alleged victim. He was accused of different sex acts that allegedly happened in August 2017 with girls under the age of 13 who were in his care.
Assistant State’s Attorney Troy Lozar argued for a 22-year sentence for Sauls while Sauls’ attorney, Ruth Wyman of Champaign, urged the judge to consider the minimum six years.
The maximum for the offense is 60 years. Wyman said that range is a reflection of the Legislature’s realization that some sexual molestation cases are far worse than others.
Sauls will have to serve 85 percent, or about 17 years. He was given credit for 338 days already served.
Wyman argued that Sauls deserved the minimum because he had a challenging upbringing in Chicago and had done well in spite of it. He was one of 10 children raised by their father after their mother died at age 33 of a heart attack. Sauls was 2 when his mother died.
Roosevelt Sauls, a minister, testified that Samuel and his other nine children, including two who died as random victims of street violence, were all church-going people raised to know right from wrong.
As an adult, Sauls enlisted in the Army, served in Afghanistan and in the National Guard after his active duty was over. He has held steady jobs and financially supported his own daughter, now 5, who lives with her mother in Champaign County. He has a single prior misdemeanor conviction for a weapons offense.
The mother of the child Sauls was convicted of molesting said the episode has left both her daughters mistrusting of boys and men and has caused a huge rift in her family. She told Difanis that out of fear, she moved and put her daughters in another school.
Her daughter has nightmares involving Sauls, she testified.
Lozar called the crime a “purely selfish one committed against a person too young to understand and too vulnerable to do anything about it.”
The sex act occurred at the home in Champaign where Sauls was staying. The girls were spending the night with him and his daughter.
Sauls testified he was back and forth between Chicago, where he worked 12-hour days about three days a week, and Champaign, where he came to see his daughter and other relatives.
The abuse allegations came to the attention of authorities in June 2018, almost a year after they happened, when the mother of the girl took her to a pediatrician to be examined.
Champaign police investigated.
The girl in the count of which Sauls was convicted told adults that Sauls had put his sex organ in her hand.
Sauls told the judge he had “no desire to seek sexual gratification from children” and that he believed the mother of the child he was convicted of hurting was involved in coaching her daughter.
“Her hate for me goes way back,” Sauls said.
Wyman asked the judge to appoint the appellate defender to appeal Sauls’ conviction and sentence.