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Sex offender’s sentence reduced by a century

John Neal

John Neal

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Updated: June 4, 2013 2:33AM

A former Round Lake Beach man’s prison sentence was reduced from 118 years to nine years and three months after his case was back in Lake County Circuit Court.

John Neal, 42, was convicted of 32 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual assault in 2007. The victim had said there were more than 500 instances of sex abuse from 1999 to 2006, starting when she was 10 and ending when she was 16.

In 2007, Judge Victoria Rossetti sentenced Neal to 118 years in prison, but the the 2nd District Illinois Appellate Court since then vacated Neal’s sentence on appeal and remanded him back to Lake County for resentencing.

Neal took a plea deal Thursday, April 4, through his attorney, Alex Rafferty, pleading guilty to two counts of criminal sexual assault for two incidents of sex abuse March 8, 2006.

“The victim wanted the case to be over,” Assistant State’s Attorney Ken LaRue said.

Neal will serve 55 months in prison for one of the counts, followed by 56 months for the other count. This totals to 111 months, or nine years and three months, LaRue said. Neal will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his natural life.

He will receive credit for the 2,582 days he has spent in custody, which works out to about seven years’ credit. LaRue said Neal will spend about one year in prison before he is released.

The appellate court found a few errors with the 2007 trial. Some of the counts were dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Neal had ineffective counsel for failing to call an expert witness to rebut one of the state’s witnesses, according to the appellate court’s ruling.

During the 2007 trial, a psychologist testified the victim suffered from child sex abuse accommodation syndrome.

“The defendant’s case was devastated by (the expert) testimony because it explained why (the victim’s) disclosure was delayed and why she would submit for such a long time to repeated and continual sexual abuse and why there were inconsistencies in what she reported,” the appellate court said in its ruling.

The victim testified that she didn’t report the ongoing abuse until March 2006 because Neal told her he could get “in really big trouble” and he could go to prison “for a long time.” She testified she came forward with her allegation because she was tired of Neal trying to “control her life,” the appellate court said in its summary.

The case boiled down to the victim’s word against Neal’s word, the appellate court said. The victim testified and so did Neal. Neal denied committing any sexual acts with her, while the victim testified to sexual acts on a near-daily basis for almost seven years.

The defense also failed to call a former boyfriend of the victim’s to testify, the appellate court said. One of the prosecution’s witnesses was a nurse who spoke about vaginal tearing the victim had that was likely caused by abuse.

The boyfriend’s testimony could have provided “a plausible explanation to injuries to the victim,” the appellate court said.

The appellate court also admonished prosecutors to “better organize testimony.” The victim has a learning disability and had difficulty recalling the facts chronologically for police and at trial, LaRue said.

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