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Nance to serve for 64 years for child rape

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By Susan Sharp

 With a convicted man still proclaiming his innocence, the district attorney asking the court to sentence him to 130 years and a statement from the child victim, the stakes were high when Joseph Nance was sentenced on Monday. In August, Nance was convicted by a jury of six counts of child rape and one count of aggravated sexual battery. The 130 years was close to the maximum sentence he could have been given. Instead, Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton told Nance he would spend the next 64 years behind bars. Sexton’s decision came following a sentencing hearing filled with graphic details of Nance’s crimes. As Assistant District Attorney General Scarlet Ellis recounted testimony from the trial, the 11 other prisoners in the courtroom, awaiting their time before the judge, frowned at Nance. He kept his head down and his eyes shut for most of the hearing.  The victim, who was 11 years old at the time Nance raped her, had submitted a statement to the court, which Ellis read aloud. “You are a sick person, who needs to burn with the devil,” Ellis began reading. Throughout the message, the child’s assertion was the same- Nance had left an indelible mark on her young life. The young girl said Nance would never receive forgiveness from her. Near the end the child had written, “You will never as long as I live hurt another poor innocent kid again.” Nance’s head stayed down as Ellis finished reading the statement. She then moved on to a stack of paper to be submitted into evidence. “They are letters,” Ellis said adding that Nance had sent them to her office with a request she forward them to his ex -girlfriend, the victim’s mother. “These are post trial notes,” Sexton asked also inquiring about their relevance to the hearing. The letters were confirmation that Nance was still not taking responsibility for his actions, Ellis said. “There is still an effort to place blame on the mom and child as he did at trial,” she said. Continuing her argument for stringent sentencing, Ellis recounted the “exceptional cruelty” Nance displayed to his victim while he assaulted her.  “Then he would use the number one rule,” Ellis told the court. “He said ‘if you ever tell anyone I’ll kill you’.” Asking the judge to consider enhancing Nance’s sentence, Ellis noted the victim’s age at the time of the crimes and Nance’s size noting he had “overpowered” the girl. Other factors used by Ellis to expound on the need for enhanced sentencing included the injuries the girl still carried from the multiple rapes, that Nance had committed the crimes “for his own pleasure,” and because he lived with the victim and her mother, had abused a position of trust. While Ellis asked the court to consider levying a heavy sentence on Nance for each offense, she also wanted the sentences to be served consecutively rather than concurrently.  As Ellis shared the reasoning behind that request, including the pain inflicted on the child, her voice cracked slightly. “This was a violent act, a cruel act, a hateful act,” Ellis said closing her argument. Robert Scott, Nance’s attorney, then stood. He said his client had not “taken responsibility” because “he continues to do so (deny his culpability).” Nance was sticking to his story that he had never harmed the child, Scott said. Regarding the age of the victim at the time of the crime, Scott noted she was “11 for most of the offenses.” Under the law his client had been convicted of breaking, the maximum age is 13, Scott argued. Scott said he didn’t feel that her age should be considered in sentencing. Calling what his client had been convicted of a “very ugly incident as anything of that nature would be,” Scott disputed the child’s injuries had rose to a serious level. He then attempted to illustrate that the crimes had occurred only under a six-month period. This prompted Ellis to interject how the rapes had come to light. “They only ended when the victim burned the house down,” she said. In June 2008, police were called to the scene of a home fire in the Shady Cove community. Once there, allegations surfaced that Nance had been raping the two girls, ages 11 and nine, that were living in the home, court records said. When both sides were finished, Sexton began his portion of the hearing. He cited that on a number of issues, Ellis had met the required burden of proof. On the question of if the child had been inflicted with a “great personal injury” the judge said that argument had been proven. The victim was “injured in an inhumane way,” Sexton said. Moving to the issue regarding Nance’s abuse of his position in the family, Sexton again agreed with prosecutors. ‘There is overwhelming proof in that enhancement factor,” the judge said. “He will answer for that in the form of the sentence.” As Sexton’s announcement on the number of years he was giving Nance began, the courtroom grew incredibly quiet. For each child rape count Nance was given 18 years, the mid sentencing point for the offense. On the sole count of aggravated sexual battery, Nance received 10 years; under the law the maximum is 12 years. The only question left for Sexton to resolve was how Nance would serve his time- consecutively or concurrently. After a round of judicial math, Sexton said it would be a combination of both meaning Nance would be serving a 64-year prison sentence. In March, Nance will stand trial for the crimes he allegedly committed against the other child in the home.  To comment on this story and others visit www.lafollettepress.com