Victim’s Mother Gets Lots of Praise For Following Her Gut
A traveling basketball coach was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 6 years of extended supervision in Shawano County Court Tuesday. 25-year-old Nicholas Bennett pleaded guilty to felony charges of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime back in 2015. Bennett was arrested for arranging a sexual encounter with whom he believed to be a 13-year old Shawano boy. Bennett was in Shawano putting on a basketball camp, when he started communicating with the boy, first in person, then by text message. The boy’s mother testified in court on Wednesday that she started to become uncomfortable and suspicious by the messages. She testified that her son used her phone during the day and turned it in to her at night. The mother also testified that she would check the phone, and when she saw the messages coming from an adult, her experience in the social worker field put up a red flag.
“There were statements that were red flags for me and with my job, I have seen situations like that. I felt my son was being targeted and I felt the need to protect my son and other children out there.”
District Attorney Greg Parker said that was a big difference maker in this case.
“The mother was spot on” Parker said. “I can not say enough good about her in this situation. She knew what was going on just by reading those text messages.”
In her testimony, the mother added that her son’s life was changed when this situation took place.
“I needed to have a conversation with my son when I found out that the arrest was coming. I wanted to tell him before he saw it on the news” the mother testified. “He was scared, and I think the realization of what could have happened to him, hit him hard. It is clear to see that he has lost a lot of trust.”
In his argument, District Attorney Greg Parker referred to the text messages that were done between Bennett and the Shawano County Sheriff Detectives to show that Bennett was showing he intended to come to Shawano for the purpose of sexual interaction with whom he believed to be 13-year-old boy.
“The states position is that this was not experimental or that Mr. Bennett has never gone that way with people of the same sex” Attorney Parker said in court. “The need to protect the public is important here.”
Parker also refereed to evaluations done by doctors, which showed Bennett could offend again.
“He is in the above average risk category for being charged or convicted of another sexual offense.” Parker explained to the court that treatment is necessary.
“There is evidence that shows that the defendant should be monitored for a very long time.”
District Attorney Parker argued for the maximum sentence.
“We talk about the gravity of the offense, the character of the defendant and the ability to protect the public. All of these are factors in this case show that children anywhere needs to be protected from him” said Parker. “The states position is that the defendant exhibited such predatory tactics just here in Shawano, and that the court should consider 20 to 25 years of confinement and 15 years of extended supervision.”
Defense attorney George Pappas argued that five years, which is the minimum that could be sentenced for this type of charge, would be enough time to get Bennett the help that he required.
“The doctor is recommending about 24 months of treatment while in confinement, and that can be met within the five year minimum.”
Pappas also argued that the there is another way to judge the character of Bennett.
“We see that he was upfront about what his intentions were” said Pappas. “He believes that his actions were not the best of choices. He spared the victim of having to testify and did not put the family through that” Pappas said. “These risks assessments are not on the high end, and they certainly do not speak to the maximum sentence.”
Before sentencing Bennett asked the family for forgiveness and asked the court to be lenient.
“To the family, community and all who are involved, I am sorry” Bennett said holding back tears. “I have been here for almost two years, and I have had a lot of time to think. It pains me to know that I have changed and ruined goals and futures. I owe a great debt, and I know that it cannot be fully paid.”
In his sentencing, Judge James Habeck said 12 years of confinement and 6 years of extended supervision would be appropriate.
“The attorneys are at the extremes, but I feel he is somewhere in between” Habeck said. The judge added that would give him until about the age of 40 to turn his life around. Judge Habeck said evaluations that doctors did showed him that it was possible.
“We have better information now and studies are showing that the rates of re-offending are dropping now, especially for those at the age of 40.”
Judge Habeck also noted how long this case has taken.
“He was on pins and needles for a real long time” “He does get the credit for 634 days in jail which might be the longest I have had someone in jail before sentencing, that would not surprise me.”
In extended supervision, Habeck also included the need for Sex-offender treatment, absolute sobriety, and the requirement to register as a sex offender. Agents would have to approve any contact with minors and use discretion when approving internet use, device use and access of images of minors. Judge Habeck also added the agent would have control over approving reasonable distances that Bennett can be from areas where large number of children can be.
“I want to have him at age 40 before he gets out of overall supervision. My general concept is that it will protect the public for that time, and give Mr. Bennett a chance for success when he is released.”
District Attorney Parker said after court that he is not so sure.
“The situation here was that he was evaluated by a doctor from the Department of Corrections and was placed at an average risk or about 10 percent chance of re-offending” Parker said. “One has to ask themselves, are you willing to have a predator like Mr. Bennett out there, and have a possibility of re-offending. There are studies that show these people can’t turn these that off in their heads, and I am always a believer that the longer you put someone on extended supervision, the longer society is protected. They are master manipulators. They look for kids that are vulnerable and they suck these kids in. He came here with the intent to have sex with a 13-year-old boy whom he had met at this sports clinic. In my opinion, you are not going to turn that around. Once he is free and clear from oversight, he could go back to this again, and children across the country could be in danger.”
Over 200 files for pornographic images of children were found on a computer in Bennett’s possession, but the charges were dismissed because of an error in how they were obtained. Bennett also has accusations of sex crimes against children in another state, but to Parker’s knowledge, no charges have been filed. Bennett has already been in Shawano County Jail for 634 days, since his arrest in October of 2015. He will get credit for time served.