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Curtis gets six years for sexual assault

 
By Pete Spitler
Editor@heraldtrib.com
Posted on 2/25/2017, 1:37 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: It is the Herald Tribune's policy to not publish the names of sexual assault victims.

An Ellis Grove man will spend at least the next several years in prison after he was sentenced by Associate Circuit Court Judge Gene Gross on Friday to serve six years in the Department of Corrections.

Austin J. Curtis, 24, was found guilty of criminal sexual assault of a 20-year-old Carbondale college student on Nov. 30 after a three-day trial. His sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for early January, but postponed twice due to scheduling conflicts with the victim and Curtis's attorney, James Gormic.

Curtis will have to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, meaning he will spend a little over five years behind bars.

"All the victim wanted from Day 1 is to see the defendant go to prison," said Randolph County State's Attorney Jeremy Walker. "We accomplished that goal, but I still feel it's not enough."

Curtis was also sentenced to a minimum of three years of mandatory supervised release with a maximum of natural life.

"The length of the MSR will be determined by DOC when Mr. Curtis is eligible for release," Walker said.

Walker said the sentencing range for the offense was four to 15 years in prison.

"After meeting with the victim in the case, she said she would be comfortable with a 10-year sentence, while the defense requested four," Walker said.

Walker said Gross took into consideration a lack of criminal history for Curtis when issuing the sentence. Curtis only had one prior offense, a misdemeanor, and some traffic citations.

"Judge Gross said as much as he could not find an aggravation that the defendant had a lengthy criminal background," Walker said. "If someone has been in trouble before, usually the sentencing is a lot more."

Walker said Curtis would be transferred to DOC custody on Monday, and his legal problems are likely not over.

"We still have another charge pending against him," Walker said. "The other young lady who testified against him said she very much wants to proceed with her case."

Curtis faces two counts of criminal sexual assault in that case, which was filed in October of last year and reportedly took place after the first incident, which occurred on February 11, 2015 at Curtis's then-residence in Chester.

Walker said Curtis has a case management conference scheduled in May for the newest charges, with a possible July trial. If he is found guilty on the newest charges, the sentences will run consecutively to his current sentence.

"He's really looking at three separate prison sentences and it's my intent to keep going," Walker said.

Walker has previously said Curtis met the victim on a social media site and she eventually gave him her phone number. They corresponded for a while through text messaging until Curtis asked her to come to Chester.

The victim agreed, believing the nature of the meeting was to allow her to work on some homework while Curtis completed some paperwork.

While the victim was working on her homework, Curtis attempted to kiss her, which she refused. Eventually, Curtis lured her into a room and then raped her.

Walker was asked by the Herald Tribune if he felt the victim was satisfied with the sentence.

"I met with her and her family immediately afterward," he said. "They would have liked to see more, but they were pleased to see he was convicted and have him go to DOC.

"There wasn't much disappointment from their standpoint."

Walker said that Curtis will be recalled, also referred to as a "writ," from DOC for any future court dates. The Chester Police Department handled the investigation in this matter, with assistance from the Randolph County Sheriff's Office.