A Madison County judge handed a 35-year prison sentence Friday to a Troy man convicted of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl.
Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli imposed the sentence on David Hahs, 66.
At Hahs’ sentencing hearing Friday, Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Nolan praised the girl for having the courage to tell someone about the abuse and give testimony.
“Children won’t be silent,” Nolan said. “No matter how much they trust you, no matter how much they love you, they will stand up for themselves.”
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In March, a jury found Hahs guilty of two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, which carries a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison, and two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Nolan asked for a sentence of 20 years on each of the predatory assault counts, and seven years on each of the abuse counts.
Defense attorney Bill Walker argued that a sentence along those lines would put Hahs at 100-plus years old before he’s eligible for release.
“The state wants you to give him the death sentence,” Walker argued.
The abuse happened between January 2011 and October 2013, at times when the girl was in Hahs’ care.
Patricia Bortko, the victim's therapist, testified at the sentencing. She said children who are abused suffer long-lasting consequences.
“When children are sexually abused by someone they know and trust, it impacts them dramatically,” Bortko said.
Bortko testified she expects that the girl will need therapy in the long term to deal with the ramifications of the abuse.
The victim’s mother testified that the child had a “love-hate” relationship with her father before disclosing the abuse. The mother said it was revealed during therapy that the relationship between the father and daughter was troubled because the father dropped the girl off at Hahs’ home every morning.
“Nothing makes this go away,” the mother said.
Nolan elicited the image of the 6-year-old girl walking into court during the trial, clutching her stuffed, pink owl.
“I’m so proud of her that she did all of this,” the mother said.
When Tognarelli asked Hahs if he wanted to make a statement, Hahs replied: “I am a loving husband, father and grandfather.”
He also stated that he worked for the railroad for 42 years. He does not have a previous felony record.
During her trial testimony, the girl said she couldn’t remember what Hahs had done to her, but she identified the Child Advocacy Center, where she gave a statement to investigators in 2013.
“I just telled her what he did,” the girl testified.
During the interview at the advocacy center, which was videotaped, the girl said Hahs put his hands in her pants and forced her to touch him. The girl said she decided to tell her grandmother about it, because “it was gross.”
Hahs, in a videotaped statement given to police, admitted he began touching the girl when she was 3 or 4 years old.
“I’m not a monster,” Hahs said during the interview with Troy Police Detective Todd Hays. “Things just got out of hand.”
Tognarelli sentenced Hahs to 15 years on each count of predatory criminal sexual assault. Those sentences must be served back-to-back. Tognarelli also sentenced Hahs to five years on each of the criminal sexual abuse charges. Those will be served concurrently.
Hahs must serve 50 percent on the criminal sexual abuse charges and 85 percent of the preditory criminal sexual abuse charges before he is eligible for release.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said Hahs will have to serve at least 27 years in prison. Gibbons said lengthy sentences are necessary in these kinds of cases to send a message that child sex abuse will be punished severely.
“We had a little girl who was brave enough to come forward. This is yet another example showing how important our Child Advocacy Center is in giving kids a voice in our criminal justice system,” Gibbons said. “Our success in the courtroom should give hope to victims who may be suffering in silence. We want you to come forward and know that we will seek justice for you in Madison County.”
Cameras in court
The photographs accompanying this article are the result of a pilot program implemented by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The program, which began in 2012, allows news photographers in courtrooms in 41 Illinois counties, including Madison.
The Hahs case marks the first time that news cameras have been allowed in a Madison County courtroom under the program.
Madison County’s former chief judge, Ann Callis, was one of the first chief judges in the state to seek inclusion in the program.
The 20th Judicial Circuit, covering St. Clair County, is not part of the program.