EFFINGHAM — An Effingham man was sentenced this week to 13 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for sexually abusing a female minor.
Joshua D. Rowlands, 44, was found guilty in February of aggravated criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13 years old, a Class 2 felony, and predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13, a Class X felony.
Judge Allan Lolie announced the sentence on Monday after hearing a victim impact statement read to the court by the victim’s guardian. The girl was 11 at the time of the assault.
The girl’s guardian described her as a happy and active child before the assault. She said her demeanor immediately changed following the assault, and the child was bullied in reference to the assault.
The guardian said the victim’s mental health deteriorated to the point that the minor was prescribed anti-depressants after she was found to have harmed herself by cutting herself. The guardian said the victim was further traumatized by the trial because her friends testified against her, and she endured outbursts by Rowlands’ family.
The guardian further said that for the child’s most recent birthday, she requested a security alarm to ease her anxiety. She said since the case was brought to court, the victim was hospitalized twice for suicidal thoughts.
“You are a predator,” the guardian said to Rowlands. “You picked (her) because you thought she was weak and an easy target. You chose very wrong.”
Authorities say Rowlands touched the minor on her hip area and near her genitals when the girl was at his Effingham home for a slumber party with a child in his household.
Effingham County State’s Attorney Bryan Kibler asked for a 22-year sentence followed by mandatory supervised release for up to Rowlands’ natural life. Kibler said such a sentence could deter others from committing the same crime and is necessary because Rowlands’ actions caused serious mental harm to the victim.
Rowlands’ attorney, Todd Reardon, asked for a sentence far below the maximum because such a lengthy sentence would “unduly punish” Rowlands.
Rowlands was ultimately sentenced to 13 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections with credit for 163 days served. Lolie sentenced Rowlands to five years in IDOC followed by two years mandatory supervised release for the Class 2 felony charge and eight years in IDOC with three years to natural life mandatory supervised release for the Class X felony charge.
Lolie noted that the Class 2 felony sentence is day for day, meaning for every day served, a day is taken off the sentence. Rowlands must serve at least 85 percent of the eight-year sentence as well.
Lolie also ordered Rowlands to be tested for HIV and vacated his fines and fees because they will not be able to be collected once Rowlands is in IDOC custody.
Rowlands chose to make a statement to the court.
“I’m not going to apologize for a crime I didn’t commit,” Rowlands said.
Prior to the sentencing, Reardon filed a motion for acquittal and a new trial. Reardon said upon reviewing transcripts of the trial, he found there was no mention or evidence pointing to Rowlands touching the victim. He said touching a victim is required for the predatory criminal sexual assault charge.
Reardon said the prosecution made an error by telling the jury before deliberation to put themselves in “a parent’s shoes.”
Kibler argued that there was overwhelming evidence presented at trial that showed Rowlands had touched the victim. He said Rowlands admitted to laying on a couch with the victim and touching her hip.
Kibler said the error was taken care of during the trial, and Rowlands’ previous attorney, Public Defender Scott Schmidt, had objected when the prosecution made the statement.
Lolie denied the motions, saying there was sufficient evidence for the Class X felony charge and that the error was harmless in nature.
Rowlands was remanded to the Effingham County Jail as he awaits transport to the IDOC. He filed an appeal of the sentence and chose to be represented by the public defender for the appeal.