Updated Wed, Apr 30, 2014 10:35 am
A Little Hocking man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Tuesday by an Athens County Common Pleas Court judge.
Alan Brigner, 35, was charged in 2012 with six counts of rape and changed his innocent plea to guilty in March. He was sentenced on the charges after a lengthy hearing in front of Judge L. Alan Goldsberry.
According to court documents, between the dates of July 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012, Brigner raped a 13-year-old girl, with whom he had a family connection, on at least six occasions.
The victim's therapist, Regina Norum, testified during the hearing that she diagnosed the girl with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"She's had tremendous trauma through this experience," Norum said. "Words can not express the amount of trauma. We've had a lot of talk about her tremendous fear and her lack of trust."
Both Brigner and the child victim, now 15, in the case made statements during the sentencing hearing, Brigner on his own, and the girl in a statement read by Norum.
The victim stood next to the Norum as the statement was read, quietly crying.
"He was supposed to be a...protector," Norum read from the statement. "But instead he was a monster."
The victim's father also made a statement during the hearing, addressing Brigner himself, calling on him to be punished for taking away his daughter's "innocence" and not showing any remorse, he said.
"I ask God to forgive you, because I never will," he said.
Brigner took most of his statement to deny claims made by two other women who gave statements saying he had harassed them and touched them in intimate ways without their consent to do so. He said he had never been charged or arrested for either of the situations and both were consensual. He went on to call one such accusation "bogus."
He said in the other claim, which the prosecution said involved an intoxicated woman, "there was not one time she told me to stop."
But in the rest of the statement, he apologized to the victim, her family and his family.
"This is not me, this does not define me," Brigner said. "I believe people are sent to prison not only to be punished, but to be rehabilitated. I have all the rehabilitation I need out here."
Defense attorney William Summers called Brigner's girlfriend and members of his family to the stand on his behalf. All said the accusations leveled against Brigner were not in his nature.
"When Alan told me what exactly he had done, I said 'what (were) you thinking...that is not you," said Ronald Brigner, father of Alan Brigner.
The Brigner family had been negatively affected as well, the family testified.
Brigner entered into a plea agreement in March with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office that allowed him to plead guilty to half of those charges in exchange for the remaining counts to be dismissed.
"We have a pattern of behavior," Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Rob Driscoll said. "What he (pleaded) guilty to was rape by force."
In arguing for a lesser sentence that would keep Brigner out of prison, Summers argued that it was debatable how much force had been used in the case and how much would be considered forcible rape.
"Force is a matter of perspective in this case," Summers said.
But to say that Brigner had not shown any remorse was misrepresentation.
"He admitted it to police, he admitted it to (his) father, he admitted it to (a family member of the victim)," Summers said. "This is not a situation in which he discounts any of the pain."
The prosecution recommended a sentence of 22 years on the charges, citing the "severe effect" Brigner's actions had had on the victim, and the two others that had accused him of similar harassment.
Driscoll argued that because Brigner was a qualified pipefitter, even after 22 years in prison, the man would be able to come out and find a job, enabling him to pay restitution. But Summers disagreed, saying that Brigner would be in his late 50s by the time he got out, limiting his ability to work and thus his ability to earn money.
"He will be old and no help to anyone," Summers said. "If this man goes to prison for a long period, he will not come out rehabilitated."
For the first count of rape, Goldsberry sentenced Brigner to six years in prison. On the other two counts, a seven-year sentence was given for each. He is also required to register as a Tier III sex offender upon his release from prison.
"There is no way to measure right or wrong or what is a perfect sentence," Goldsberry said. "The court does believe it's evident in this case that all humans are affected differently."
The judge added that he saw that "severe damage" had been done to the victim in the case.