A Minnesota man who received no prison time after pleading guilty to having sex with a teenage relative between 60 and 100 times will remain free.
The decision comes despite prosecutors’ attempts to get what they called an “extraordinarily lenient sentence” thrown out by an appeals court in the state.
Buzzfeednews.com reports that the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed Michael Hill’s sentence of 10 years of probation.
The decision came defending judicial discretion and striking down pleas from Ramsey County’s attorneys to reconsider Hill’s case.
“In this awakened era of #MeToo, it is hard to see how anyone could … think this minimal sentence is proportional to the seriousness of Mr. Hill’s triple-digit sex crimes,” prosecutor Thomas Ragatz wrote in June, when the state appealed Judge Stephen L. Smith’s decision.
BuzzFeed News previously reported, state sentencing guidelines dictated that the typical punishment for someone guilty of Hill’s crime was 12 years in prison.
But in April, Smith granted probation to the 28-year-old Hill, an electrician with no prior criminal record, based on several factors. Among them included Hill’s visible remorse, family support, his early admission of wrongdoing to police, and his outpatient enrollment at Project Pathfinder, a St. Paul non-profit institution that aims to rehabilitate sex offenders.
“The long and short of all of this is that I do find that Mr. Hill, unlike many, seems particularly amenable to probation and treatment,” Smith said.
Prosecutors vigorously fought back, casting Hill as a rapist who blamed his victim, known only by her initials in court documents.
BuzzFeed reports the victim was 15 when Hill began sending sexually explicit messages to her, then “repeatedly pestered her” to have sex until “she finally gave in,” police said.
Hill had “no real understanding of how damaging this is going to be for this young woman for the duration of her life,” prosecutor Somah Yarney said in April.
But the Minnesota appeals court defended Smith’s freedom to depart from state guidelines in its sentencing.
“Although we may not have reached the same conclusion as the district court, our standard of review compels us to find that the district court did not abuse its discretion,” Monday’s opinion read.
Don’t be surprised if this case continues to spark much public interest in the next several months.