A Louisiana judge asked a rape survivor an unusual question when he was sentencing her attacker: Would she accept $150,000 from the man in exchange for reducing his 12-year sentence?
State District Judge Bruce Bennett's question surprised the district attorney's office, according to East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.
Moore, who wasn't present at the time of the sentencing, told The Washington Post that Bennett's proposal caught his associate attorney "off guard."
"This was an unusual gesture. I don't know why he said what he said," Moore said. "My guess is, knowing the judge, maybe he was trying to assist the lady in some type of way, but I cannot speak for him. The lady wanted time."
She rejected the offer in a court hearing on Thursday, The Advocate reported.
The woman, now 31, was 15 years old when Sedrick Hills, 45, raped her.
"This whole experience has been like a movie, but a bad movie, a horror movie," she said, according to The Advocate. "I've been fighting this over half my life. I'm tired. I'm angry. Stuff like this deteriorates a person. It deteriorates who I am. I'm still trying to figure out who I am."
Hills was charged in 2014 and convicted last year after DNA evidence surfaced and connected him to the 2003 rape. He was found guilty of forcible rape and an incest crime in August 2018, according to custody records and The Advocate.
The victim wanted him to serve time for his crime, not any money.
"I don't think money is going to provide any restitution for what he's done," she said at Thursday's court hearing, according to The Advocate.
She wanted Hills to serve time for the time she felt he had taken away from her in the aftermath of her rape.
Moore said he has seen judges order restitution, but this is the first time in his career that a judge made an offer such as Bennett's.
Moore stressed that he has a lot of respect for the judge, who served on the bench for nearly 30 years.
Bennett retired in 2015, but he's been filling in the 19th Judicial District Court seat since it became vacant when Judge Todd Hernandez retired in March with a year and nine months still left in his six-year term, The Advocate reported.
Bennett said the money would not be "an extortionary offer," The Advocate reported.
In his supplemental reasons for sentencing, Bennett wrote that the pre-sentence investigation hinted that Hills had been injured in a "big truck" accident that gave him injuries. The judge said he wasn't aware if there was a civil case pending for the accident, but that he thought it seemed unfair for Hills to "emerge from prison with a windfall while the victim has received no compensation for her emotional injuries sustained as a result of the crimes."
Bennett also noted that the time to sue Hills had expired because of Louisiana's statute of limitations.
If Hills were to receive money from his accident and deposit it with the district attorney's office, the survivor "is at least partially empowered to control her own economic destiny and receive compensation for this reprehensible and life-changing action," he wrote.
In her victim impact statement before the judge, the woman said the rape has left her broken and that Hills robbed her of at least 16 years of her life, according to The Advocate. She wanted the same amount of time taken from him, she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than one in three women experience sexual violence during their lifetime. For men, it's one in four.
Sexual assault survivors may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, according to the CDC.
Moore said he was uncertain about how Hills would've paid his victim.
Public records show that before his arrest, Hills lived in a 2,310-square-foot home in Baton Rouge that has an estimated worth of $250,000.
Hills' attorney didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Louisiana does have a fund to assist victims of crime that's administered by the Crime Victims Reparations Board under the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement. The money for the program comes from fines and files paid by people who break the law, according to the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Criminal Justice.
Last year, it awarded nearly $2.4 million to 3,195 victims of crime, the majority of them women, according to the board's 2018 annual report. Child sexual abuse and sexual assault had the highest numbers of claims filed by victims.
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