Man sentenced to 14 years for raping a minor

COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley Circuit Court Judge Matthew Rentschler sentenced a Columbia City man to 14 years at the Indiana Department of Correction for raping a 14-year-old.

James Smith, 20, was arrested Nov. 8, 2017, by the Columbia City Police Department, charged with criminal mischief, criminal confinement, sexual misconduct with a minor and rape.

Smith was sentenced for the Level 3 felony rape charge in Whitley County Circuit Court on Monday, July 16, after testimony from the victim’s mother and arguments from Smith’s attorney Churchward and Prosecutor D.J. Sigler.

Smith pleaded guilty to rape through a plea agreement.

“Do you know what if feels like, James, to not be able to take pain and fear away from your own child?” asked the victim’s mother during her testimony against Smith. “She does not trust a single person because of you.”

The mother of the victim stated that she carries “so much hate” for Smith, but on sentencing day, she “forgives” Smith, “not only for her daughter, but for God.”

During the sentencing, Smith read a statement of remorse for the victim that Rentschler found to be “sincere,” however, not making up for the damage he had done.

Smith was 19 at the time of the offense, a fact Churchward argued to be a mitigating factor, along with his “significant mental health issues” and acceptance of responsibility.

Sigler disputed most of the defendant’s argument, stating that Smith’s lack of education and history of violence are aggravating factors.

Smith’s criminal history of battery and probation violations supported Sigler’s argument. “His history of violence shows a lack of empathy, a lack of sympathy and a lack of humanity,” said Sigler.

In the presentence investigation report, Sigler said he heard “nothing that expresses remorse.”

“Mr. Smith was engaging in sexual conduct with a woman who was 13 or 14,” said Sigler before asking the judge for a 14-year sentence with a 12-year executed portion.

Smith took “full responsibility” and apologized to the victim and those who were hurt by his actions in his statement; however, sentences are based on crimes, not remorse.

“She is going to be dealing with that in any of her future relationships. Her memory of that will never go away,” Rentschler told Smith when issuing his sentence.

Rentschler found Smith’s criminal history, violation of probation, lack of education and young age to be aggravating circumstances, but considered his traumatic childhood and statement of remorse to be mitigating.

Smith was sentenced to 14 years at the Indiana Department of Correction with 12 years to be served and 2 years suspended, and declared Smith as a sexually violent predator.

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