Baton Rouge, LA – A fill-in Louisiana judge offered to potentially reduce a convicted rapist’s prison sentence if the victim agreed to accept a $150,000 payout from her attacker.
Sedrick Hills, 44, was originally charged with forcible rape and another sexual assault-related offense in 2014, stemming from an attack on a 15-year-old girl in 2003, The Advocate reported.
DNA evidence tied Hills to the offense, and he was convicted in August of 2018.
Hills appeared before Special District Court Judge Bruce Bennett for sentencing on Nov. 7.
Bennett called Hills’ offense “reprehensible,” and sentenced him to 12 years in prison, FOX News reported.
The judge then floated the idea of reducing the sentence in the event the victim wanted to accept $150,000 from Hills instead.
"This will not be considered to be an extortionary offer," Bennett noted, according to The Advocate.
The victim, now 31, told the court that she was left “broken” in the wake of the rape.
"This whole experience has been like a movie – but a bad movie – a horror movie," she explained. "I've been fighting this over half my life. I'm tired. I'm angry. Stuff like this deteriorates a person. It deteriorates who I am. I'm still trying to figure out who I am."
The woman asked Bennett to sentence Hills to at least 16 years in prison – the same number of years that she said had been stolen from her since the attack.
"I don't think money is going to provide any restitution for what he's done," she said.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said that the victim has never requested financial compensation from her attacker.
“The victim wants jail time and no financial compensation from him,” Moore reiterated.
In a supplemental court filing on Wednesday, Bennett explained that he brought up the idea of a potential financial payout in an effort to further empower the victim, The Advocate reported.
"If this mitigation alternative is offensive to the victim, she simply needs to do nothing," the judge noted. “If the defendant deposits the funds, she is at least partially empowered to control her own economic destiny and receive compensation for this reprehensible and life-changing action.”
Bennett noted that a pre-sentence investigation report indicated that Hills may be involved in a civil lawsuit after being injured in a truck accident.
"I do not know if he has a civil case pending,” he wrote. “But if the defendant reaps a large amount of money, it seems unfair to me that he should emerge from prison with a windfall while the victim has received no compensation for her emotional injuries sustained as a result of the crime, as I have seen happen in so many other cases.”
The victim said she believes that the court “sincerely intended to empower and to help her,” Moore told The Advocate on Thursday.
“However, she feels that the way the sentence is structured implies that the defendant’s financial position could buy his way out of a part of his sentence," Moore added. “She also believes that the sentence structure perpetuates the income disparity issue in the criminal justice system. This sentence puts her in the personal dilemma of choosing time versus money, which is a tough position for her given the high human cost that she has suffered and will continue to suffer.”
Should Hills opt to deposit $150,000 with the district attorney’s office in the future – and if the victim decides to accept that payment – the court would still have the ability to grant Hills “a modest reduction of time,” Bennett wrote in the supplemental filing.
"In my view, justice requires that the victim be afforded another opportunity to pursue this alternative avenue of seeking a more satisfactory form of personal and social justice," the judge added. “[She] is now empowered in some measure by this court to control the progress of this defendant's punishment and her own future."
Bennett served nearly three decades as a 21st Judicial District Court judge before he retired in 2015, The Advocate reported.
He was serving as an ad hoc judge for Hills’ sentencing after another judge retired, and his appointment as the 19th Judicial District Court judge has since expired.