Two former Creston police officers convicted for their roles in the rape of a country club bartender were sentenced today to a combined 50 years in prison.
A jury of nine women and three men in Sioux City found James Christensen, the city’s former police chief, and John Sickels, the former assistant chief, guilty in March of second-degree sexual abuse.
Prosecutors contended that Sickels, 39, raped the woman at the Crestmoor Country Club on April 18, 2008, after the club had closed. Prosecutors alleged that Christensen, 41, stroked the woman’s hair and tried to quiet her during the incident.
Both were sentenced today to 25 years in prison. Each read a statement at the sentencing, which was held at the Polk County Courthouse, before their terms were handed down, but neither apologized directly to the victim.
Sickels instead criticized the trial and maintained that the sex was consensual.
"I'm proud of him and what he's done for the community," Sickels' mother, Janet Jackson said after the hearing. "This was a set up from day one."
Christensen told the packed courtroom, which included 30 or more anti-sexual assault advocates, that he was sorry his supporters "had to endure this."
Both men will stay in jail without bond while they appeal the conviction.
Defense lawyers had contended at the trial that the sex between Sickels and the woman was consensual. Christensen testified that he did not see the sex act.
The arrests of the men in June sent shockwaves through Creston, a town of about 8,000. Christensen and Sickels were fired after they were charged. The trial was moved from Union County to Woodbury County to ensure a fair trial.
The verdict capped an eight-day trial that was often contentious. Four hours of closing arguments became so heated that Judge Arthur Gamble twice sent jurors out of the courtroom so he could referee disagreements among the attorneys.
Sickels lawyer charged that prosecutors deliberately tried to mislead jurors about which side was responsible to prove Sickels’ guilt. Defense lawyers also raised questions during the trial about the accuser’s statements, her reported drunken memory lapses in the past, and the tactics used by state investigators.
Prosecutors, cited conflicting statements from Sickels and Christensen about the incident, their admitted request that night for oral sex, and the woman’s unwavering story.
Sickels initially denied that he had sex with the woman, then twice changed his story when questioned by a state agent.
The Des Moines Register does not name rape victims without their permission.
Sickels and Christensen argued in court papers that prosecutors misstated facts and denied them a fair trial.
But Gamble ruled Tuesday that the prosecutors broke no rules and that the evidence was fairly presented.
It wasn’t just a “he said, she said” case, Gamble wrote, and the conviction was supported by ample evidence that included Sickels’ admission that he had sex with the woman.
“Given the physical evidence at the crime scene and the admissions of the defendants, the state’s case was strong,” according to Gamble’s ruling. “The complainant’s testimony was credible. Her statements to the DCI, her deposition testimony and her trial testimony were consistent on her central allegation of sexual abuse. The testimony of the defendants was neither consistent nor credible.”
Tags: sex, sexual, offender, issues, iowa, police, cops, sex offender, sexual offender, rape
Location: Creston, Iowa, United States (load item map)
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