Sentence reduction denied

March 24, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A 39-year-old man, who is serving four years in state prison for sexually assaulting the daughter of a family friend, came to Carroll Circuit Court this week looking for forgiveness and a shorter sentence.

He got neither.

"I can't tell you enough how sorry I am for the pain and suffering that I have caused," John Warren Gesell wrote in a letter to Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. "I ask you to forgive me for what I have done and to give me a second chance to live in the community without their fear of me."

On Tuesday, Judge Burns left intact the 15-year sentence -- with all but four years of it suspended -- he imposed on Gesell Nov. 16. Gesell pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse on Sept. 14 as part of a plea bargain that capped his incarceration at four years.

Judge Burns lamented that he agreed to the plea bargain. He said in November he wished he could have sent Gesell away for longer than four years.

"The statement of facts I heard on Sept. 14, 1993 in this case were as bad, and as terrible and as sick as I have ever heard," the judge said at Gesell's sentencing hearing.

Gesell had asked Judge Burns to shorten his sentence because it "has caused and continues to cause great economic hardship to his family," his lawyer wrote in a sentence modification request filed earlier this year.

Gesell also asked Judge Burns to allow him to serve his sentence at the Carroll County Detention Center instead of in a state prison.

The judge denied that request, too.

Gesell was indicted in June, 1993 on six charges of child sexual abuse after an investigation that lasted several months. The state trooper who was in charge of the investigation said in June that police learned of the abuse when the girl told an officer who was visiting a class on drug abuse at her school.

Gesell's wife was a licensed day care provider who, along with her husband, had cared for the girl.

The abuse took place when Gesell's wife was out of the house, records say.

Gesell would ask the girl to come upstairs to his bedroom, where he fondled her and forced her to perform sex acts, records say.

In letters to the court, the victim and her family begged Judge Burns to keep the sentence intact.

"I'm appalled that he'd have the nerve to make any one of those requests," the girl's mother wrote. "He's stolen [our daughter's] childhood from her and shattered the peace of our family forever."

"How could I have totally misplaced my trust in John Gesell?" the mother said in her letter. "This devastating mistake causes me to question my judgment of all people."

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