EATON — Martin Burnett was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of rape in Preble County Common Pleas Court Tuesday, Feb. 11. Judge Stephen R. Bruns presided.
Burnett, 59, formerly of Lakengren, entered an Alford plea to the charges on Jan. 13. Additional counts of rape and gross sexual imposition were dismissed at that time in accordance with negotiations between the defendant and the Preble County Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
Burnett told the court at his January hearing that he had entered the plea to avoid the possibility of receiving two life sentences if convicted at trial. Under the terms of an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but merely acknowledges that enough evidence exists to convict them.
Burnett’s alleged victim, a now fifteen-year-old relative, addressed the court before sentence was handed down. Burnett reportedly assaulted the girl when she was six years old, touching her inappropriately during family events and forcing her to engage in sex acts on at least three separate occasions.
“I knew I should have said what he did back then,” the victim read in her prepared statement. “But even two suicide attempts later, I still couldn’t say it.”
Burnett’s victim has reportedly been diagnosed with severe depression in the years since the assault, which she disclosed to authorities in May 2017.
“What I’m trying to do now is think not about what he did, but about how I allow it – sometimes consciously and sometimes not — to make me a better person,” she said. “As of today, there is no more anger. No more tears. I am done with him.”
The victim’s mother also spoke.
“I’ve gone through so many emotions over the past three years, including frustration, anger, confusion, and disgust,” she said. “I always falsely comforted myself with the thought that such things would never happen to my child. Sadly, I was mistaken.”
She also spoke about how the assault had created a rift in her extended family, which was once close and held frequent get-togethers.
“Since this craziness started, we have had two family gatherings,” she said. “Everyone was uncomfortable, and no one could even get out a camera and take pictures. We don’t get together anymore.”
Burnett was charged with 36 counts of possession of child pornography in February 2013. Stories written by the defendant describing sex acts involving children were discovered on Burnett’s computer after he took it to a local business to have the hard drive repaired. Some of those stories, according to Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Marit, included pornographic images of children with the faces of the victim and her siblings digitally superimposed.
Attorney Ian Stegmaier spoke in his client’s defense, however, saying the assault for which he was being sentenced occurred before he was imprisoned for the child pornography charges. He also noted sex offender rehabilitation programs Burnett had undergone while incarcerated.
“He’s already been to prison for five years,” Stegmaier said. “He’s been out for over a year, he’s been a productive citizen and he hasn’t had any run-ins with anyone involved in this case. There is no doubt that he has already been rehabilitated.”
Stegmaier also outlined factors in the case that he felt made recidivism less likely, including the fact that it was his first offense; that sex offender registry would prevent him from being around children unsupervised for the remainder of his life; and that his agreement to the Alford plea was motivated partly by a desire to spare the victim further suffering.
“You can’t show remorse for something you didn’t do,” Stegmaier said. “But I believe that’s as close to remorse as you can come with an Alford plea.”
Finally, Burnett spoke, reiterating that his entry of the Alford plea did not constitute an admission of guilt.
“I did it because of my history, and because of what the prosecutor had hanging over my head,” Burnett said. “I’m not saying that something didn’t happen to this girl. Obviously it did, but I wasn’t involved with it. But if my going away brings her some peace, that’s one blessing that will come out of all this.”
Though Burnett’s attorney had asked for the minimum mandatory sentence of three years, citing Burnett’s first 46 years living “a law-abiding life,” demonstrated remorse, and unlikeliness to reoffend, Judge Bruns sentenced Burnett to ten years of incarceration, one year shy of the maximum sentence allowed in the case.
“When I look at the rape of a six-year-old girl, I can’t consider anything close to a minimum sentence,” Bruns said. “And I disagree with Mr. Stegmaier’s statement about remorse. In fact, I consider the Alford plea to be an indication of a lack of remorse.”
Burnett will be designated a Tier III Sex Offender, meaning that upon release, he will be required to register any address where he lives, works, or attends school with authorities in his county of residence every 90 days for the remainder of his life.