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lunedì 8 maggio 2017

'Predatory' child abuser sentenced

Convicted of predatory sexual abuse, and just before a judge handed down a decades-long prison sentence Friday, Binghamton resident James Starnes had nothing to say.

But choice words from Starnes' three victims, delivered in emotionally-charged statements in Broome County Court spelled out how their young lives had been shattered by a man they should have been able to trust.
Starnes, 51, was sentenced to 30 years to life in state prison, for crimes that were described by Judge Kevin Dooley as the "horrendous" conduct of a calculating manipulator. Prosecutors said the victims withstood years of abuse, but once he was convicted, they faced Starnes in court as survivors.
One of the victims, as she fought back tears, said that Starnes "took my innocence and self-worth and flushed them down the drain."
Another girl told the court that Starnes' abuses left her feeling angry, helpless and how a sense of normalcy feels out of reach. For that, she said, Starnes deserved to be "locked away forever."
"A lot of my first experiences were taken away from me," she said. "I can't have a normal teenage life."
Although the accusers' names were disclosed in open court, this news organization does not identify victims of sexual assault.
During Starnes' trial, prosecutors argued he committed multiple sexual abuses against girls who were ages 12, 14, and 9 when the incidents occurred. Some of the abuses, prosecutors said, took place over the course of at least three months, and dated back to 2013.
The jury's verdict in March found Starnes guilty of the following felony counts: predatory sexual assault against a child, second-degree criminal sexual act, second-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse and second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child.
At Friday's sentencing, Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Korchak said Starnes committed some of the most despicable crimes under the state's penal code, crimes Starnes refused to accept responsibility for.
Broome County Court Judge Kevin Dooley, before handing down the sentence, told Starnes this case was not complicated — it was "100 percent credibility determination," and the victims who testified against him were credible.
Starnes' version of what happened was more likely designed to avoid the consequences, the judge added. In response, Starnes shook his head in disagreement.
"This was an extreme violation of trust ... all to satisfy your own sexual desires," Dooley told a shacked Starnes. "They're children."
Defense lawyer Christopher Grace, in brief remarks Friday, conceded the charges against his client were terrible, but that Starnes maintains his innocence should not be confused for a refusal to accept responsibility.
"He just says he did not do this," Grace said in court.
The Binghamton Police Department investigated the case before arresting Starnes in April 2016.
On Friday, Dooley handed down consecutive penalties: 20-years-to life in prison for the top charge of predatory sexual assault against a child. Starnes received 5-year prison terms for two counts of criminal sexual act, 2½ years for sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct against a child, along with 5 years for rape.
Dooley said he was convinced Starnes would victimize other children, if given an opportunity, and this harsh sentence should send a message to future criminals.
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