The 17-year-old son of a Salem Day Care provider has been sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for the Class X offense of aggravated criminal sexual assault to a 10 month girl at the day care center.
Judge Alan Loley handed down the sentence to Justin Atteberry in Marion County Court Wednesday afternoon. He had earlier entered an open guilty plea to the charge.
Testimony at the sentencing hearing included a victim impact statement from the girl's mother on the ongoing impact of the assault on the girl. She said her daughter gets upset when men are around and won't go see her father. She referred to Atteberry as a sick, twisted human and whatever sentence will never be long enough to justify what he did.
The defense put Atteberry's uncle on the stand who outlined Justin's own abuse as a young child that eventually led him to be adopted. Michael Kelley described Justin as a very abused child, with bruises to the head, throat and chest. He said some required surgery to correct. Kelley called Justin emotionally immature, who took no responsibility and could throw a fit like a six to seven year old.
Atteberry made a statement in allocution apologizing for his actions. He took full responsibility for what he had done and called it the biggest mistake of his life. Atteberry said he feels very bad and would do anything to change his actions. He hopes someday the girl's family will forgive him.
Assistant State's Attorney Melissa Doran asked for the maximum 30 year sentence, while Atteberry's attorney Jessica Koester said mitigating factors should limit the sentence to eight years. Koester noted if the incident had occurred eight months earlier, Atteberry would have been treated as a juvenile with the court only having jurisdiction until Justin's 21st birthday. She said he was a kid who lacks understanding of the consequences of his actions and as a juvenile is much more likely to be rehabilitated.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Loley noted Atteberry had no prior history of delinquency and felt the incident involving the girl was not planned. He also feels Atteberry's young age makes rehabilitation more likely. However, the judge called the sexual assault one of the most cruel crime scenes outside of murder.
Loley was troubled by Atteberry's admission to a probation officer that he had used force and refused to stop a sex act with a 13-year-old girl when he was 14 even after the girl threatened to call police. The judge said that showed a pattern of predatory behavior. Loley also considered it a serious factor of aggravation that Atteberry committed the act after being entrusted by his mother to care for the baby.
Atteberry will have to serve 85 percent of the sentence under state law and with 13 months already served in the Marion County Jail since his arrest, he will be in the Department of Corrections for 18 years.