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August 30, 2012 | 03:35 PMELKHORN — A judge didn't buy a 29-year-old man's story when he said he thought the 15-year-old girl he was having a sexual relationship with was an adult.
Although Judge John Race said he didn't believe John J. Baumeister, 526 Franklin Ave., he didn't send him to prison either. Instead, Baumeister was sentenced Aug. 30 to seven years probation, which includes a year in jail with work-release privileges. He will also have to undergo sex-offender treatment and register as a sex offender.
Baumeister pleaded guilty June 25 to second-degree sexual assault of a child. The law on this charge prevents a defendant from using a misunderstanding of the victim's age as a valid defense.
In September 2010, Baumeister, who at the time was 27, met the victim at a party and she told him that she was 18. The girl told police that by their second meeting she had disclosed her actual age.
However, according to Baumeister's defense attorney Michael Masnica, Baumeister didn't learn that the girl was 15 until he met the victim's mother, who told him not to have contact with her daughter.
"He certainly should be able to tell a 15-year-old girl from an 18-year-old," Race said. "18-year-old girls have driver's licenses."
Deputy District Attorney Joshua Grube asked Race to send Baumeister to prison, but a plea agreement prevented him for recommending a specific sentence.
Grube said this sexual assault of a child is Baumeister's 11th criminal conviction. His criminal history includes four drunken driving charges.
Baumeister admits to drinking at the party when he first met the girl, which occurred a month before he was sentenced for the most recent drunken driving conviction. At that time, he was free from custody with a condition that he not consume alcohol.
"I believe the public deserves protection from this defendant when he is drinking," Grube said. "I believe the public deserves protection from this defendant when he is not drinking."
Grube said that Baumeister has been sentenced to probation in the past and served time in jail, and that hasn't changed his behavior.
"I believe there needs to be escalating punishments for criminal behavior," he said.
Before the sentencing hearing, the department of corrections prepared a presentence investigation, which examined the Crime, his education, work history and past criminal behavior. That report recommended five years of probation and nine months in county jail.
Grube said that while talking to a presentence investigator, Baumeister shifted the blame to his victim.
"Throughout the PSI you see blame-shifting and minimization," Grube said.
Grube found one of Baumeister's comments infuriating.
"I'm scared I have to deal with this the rest of my life," Grube said while quoting Baumeister. "I'm mad she lied about her age. I'm mad this is happening to me."
The victim's mother wrote a letter to the judge asking that Baumeister receive the maximum sentence, which would have been 25 years of initial incarceration and 15 years of extended supervision.
The girl's father asked that Baumeister receive a probation sentence that includes county jail. The victim didn't want Baumeister to receive prison.
"She certainly doesn't want him to hang for this, but we don't know how this will affect her in the future," Grube said.
Masnica said the relationship between Baumeister and the victim was short-lived.
He also re-emphasized that Baumeister believed the girl was an adult. Race questioned why that was germane when it is not a valid defense.
"He wants you to understand that he doesn't prey on little girls," he said. "Had he known she was 15, he would have never done it."
When Baumeister was given a chance to speak he apologized for his actions.
"I'm not extremely mad. I'm mad that it's all happening," he said. "It's unnecessary, I feel."