Anthony E. Molina, a former college baseball star accused of sexually abusing a child, was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison. With credit for time served, prosecutors say he likely will serve as little as three.
Mr. Molina, 36, address unknown, entered an Alford plea in October to two Class 2 felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse against the girl, who lived in his household. In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state likely has enough evidence to prove its case if the matter proceeded to trial.
He was arrested in May 2012, after the victim told her mother and police that Mr. Molina had touched her "private spot," and forced her to touch his, multiple times beginning when she was 5 and stopping by December 2011, after she turned 10.
The abuse allegedly occurred in several locations throughout the Quad-Cities while the two were alone together.
Mr. Molina's attorney Steve Hanna advocated for probation, saying his client was "an excellent candidate" to seek rehabilitation outside prison walls.
During Thursday's hearing, Mr. Hanna called to the stand clinical psychologist Kirk Witherspoon, of Moline, who evaluated Mr. Molina in November 2013.
The defendant had displayed no signs of deviant sexual desire or other concerning pathological behaviors, Dr. Witherspoon said, and, in his opinion, was extremely unlikely to re-offend.
Prosecutors and family members of the victim sought the maximum sentence of seven years, claiming Mr. Molina's Alford plea did not make him an innocent man.
"This is five years of abuse," assistant state's attorney Jennifer Gardner said. "He's already received the benefit of the bargain," she added, referencing an earlier plea deal, which dismissed five Class X felony counts of predatory criminal sexual assault against Mr. Molina, each of which carry up to 30 years in prison.
Mr. Molina, who sat quietly at the defense table throughout Thursday's hearing, chose not to make a statement before sentencing.
Judge Frank Fuhr said probation was not enough punishment.
"It was significant psychological harm done to this child," the judge said. "There are hardly any crimes worse than ones committed by a parent-figure to a child.
Mr. Molina, who had been out on bond since 2012, hugged family members who came to watch the proceedings before he was returned to custody. He was held Thursday evening in the Rock Island County Jail, awaiting transport to an Illinois prison.
He will be eligible for day-to-day-credit, meaning for each day served in prison without getting in trouble, a day will be knocked off the remaining time. He could be released in as little as three years.
After the hearing, family members of the victim and officials who worked closely with the case, expressed anger and disappointment at what many saw as a lax sentence.
"I'm not walking away happy," Ms. Gardner assured the the group of 20 or so that remained crowded into the courtroom. She said prosecutors talked extensively with the victim and her family before determining that a plea bargain was the appropriate avenue.
She noted that instances of childhood sexual abuse -- especially those committed in the home or by a parental figure -- can be extremely traumatic and may take years before the victim is ready to come forward, if at all. In the Molina case, prosecutors did not wish to further subject the victim to the trauma of testifying, she said.
Sally Miskinis, of the Monarch Trauma Counseling Center in Moline, who testified for prosecutors on Thursday, said it had taken about six months after first coming to therapy before the victim was willing to bring up "the touching."
The child had reported suffering from nightmares and memories of the abuse "replaying like a video" in her mind, Ms. Miskinis said, adding the victim was recovering from stress-induced headaches, stomachaches and tics.
The girl now lives full-time with her father and stepmother, family members reported. On Thursday, her stepmother told Judge Fuhr the case had nearly torn the family apart, with the victim now rarely able to see her mother or siblings, at least three of whom live out-of-state.
"She will survive from this, but I want you to know how much you have taken away from her and her family," the stepmother said, staring across the courtroom at Mr. Molina.
Mr. Molina, a former Moline High School baseball standout who played college ball at the University of Evansville, suffered severe eye damage in 1999 when he was hit in the head by a warm-up pitch aimed at him while he was standing 24 feet away from the plate. The injury effectively ended his baseball career.
Today is Tuesday, Sept, 30, the 273rd day of 2014. There are 92 days left in the year.
1864 — 150 years ago: The ARGUS Boys are very anxious to attend the great Democratic mass meeting tomorrow and we shall therefore, print no paper on the day. 1889 — 125 years ago: H.J. Lowery resigned from his position as manager at the Harper House. 1914 — 100 years ago: Curtis & Simonson was the name of a new legal partnership formed by two younger members of the Rock Island County Bar. Hugh Cyrtis and Devore Simonson.. 1939 — 75 years ago: Harry Grell, deputy county clerk was named county recorder to fill the vacancy caused by a resignation. 1964 — 50 years ago: A new world wide reader insurance service program offering around the clock accident protection for Argus subscribers and their families is announced today. 1989 — 25 years ago: Tomato plant and other sensitive greenery may have had a hard time surviving overnight as temperatures neared the freezing point.