Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

March 8, 2013

Two Marion County sex offenders sent to prison

By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express

---- — Kenneth Joseph Rivers and Benjamin Lee Curtis were each sentenced to prison for sex-based crimes in Marion County District Court on Friday. The cases are not related.

Rivers pled guilty to two counts of lascivious acts with a child, stemming from instances during the summer of 1997. The victim came forward about the acts late last year. At the time of the crimes, she was under the age of 13.

The plea was made by Rivers in open court. Rivers then requested to be sentenced immediately. Judge David Christensen sentenced Rivers to five years per count, with the sentences running consecutively. Rivers received credit for time served, he may be eligible for parole, his sentence could be reduced with good behavior and he must register as a sex offender.

Curtis appeared in court on, what Marion County Attorney Ed Bull referred to as “a number of criminal matters.” Bull reached a plea agreement with Curtis’ attorney, Ted Engel, in which Curtis agreed to waive his right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial.

Christensen was notified of the agreement, and the defendant’s intent to do this, on Thursday. The judge reviewed the evidence and testimony available to make a decision regarding Curtis’ guilt on charges of third-degree sexual abuse, false imprisonment and domestic abuse assault.

The charges were related to a July 3, 2012, incident in Pella, in which Curtis beat and raped his girlfriend, and refused to let her leave his apartment. Other charges related to this incident were filed against Curtis, but were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Christensen, upon reviewing the evidence, found him guilty of the charges stated above. Curtis also requested immediate sentencing.

Bull read the State’s recommended sentence, which included 10 years in prison for the sexual abuse charge, five years for the domestic abuse charge and one year for the false imprisonment, all with associated fines and surcharges. The State recommended Curtis be on parole for the rest of his natural born life after fulfilling his sentence, and that a portion of his prison sentences run concurrently, so that Curtis will not be incarcerated for a period of time exceeding 11 years.

Christensen adopted the State’s recommendation verbatim, as he did not reread the sentence from the bench. Curtis was given the opportunity to address the court, but declined to comment.

“This court is going to defer to the plea agreement,” Christensen said.

“I think this was a very good day for the citizens of Marion County,” Bull said. Two sexual offenders were taken off the streets and sent to prison, he added as the reason why.

“I’d like to thank law enforcement and the victims for their assistance in these matters,” Bull said. He is especially proud of the victim who came forward 15 years after the crime had been committed against her. She was able to do so because, in Iowa, child sexual abuse victims have up to 10 years after their 18th birthday to report instances of abuse they endured as children.

As for Curtis, who has an extensive criminal history, Bull is glad to see him incarcerated.

“There’s no question Ben Curtis is a violent individual who deserves to spend significant time in prison,” Bull said. “His refusal to accept responsibility, I believe, will ensure that he won’t be walking the streets of Marion County anytime soon.”

Bull was confident that he could have gotten a guilty verdict for Curtis from a jury. He is glad to know, as well, that when Curtis does get out of prison, he will be on parole for the rest of his natural born life.