Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

April 26, 2013

Bingham sentenced for enticing minor

The Journal Express

---- — Robert A. Bingham, 20, was sentenced on charges of enticing a minor on Friday. Bingham pled guilty to the charges on Feb. 1. He was accused of having sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl, when he was also a minor. Prior to sentencing, the victim and her mother read impact statements.

“I could not believe what Robert had done to me,” the victim said. She said she started turning away from her family and kept things inside. In her words, she “became someone else.” She is still occasionally scared to be alone.

“Now, I’m not dealing with this alone,” the victim said. “I am strong. I am loved.”

The victim’s mother described this incident as “an awful crime committed by a once-trusted family friend.” When her daughter told her of the abuse, she called Bingham.

“As he cried on the other end of the phone, I asked him what he had to say for himself,” she said. “I watched my daughter change right in front of me.”

The mother described her anguish, as she struggled to find out how she could have missed the abuse. The crimes impacted her entire family.

“People who commit these crimes don’t have it stamped on their forehead,” she said. “(My daughter) will continue to heal and move on with the help of her family and friends.”

The plea agreement Bingham, and his attorney, John Rigg, consented to included a recommendation by County Attorney Ed Bull for 10 years in prison, per count, to run consecutively, with financial obligations. Bull also recommended suspending the sentence in favor of five years’ probation, registration as a sex offender, a no contact order and going through the sex offender treatment program.

“We believe sex offender treatment would be beneficial,” Rigg said.

Bull told Judge Martha Mertz that the State felt this was appropriate, given Bingham’s age and criminal history. He believes this provides the best possible opportunity for rehabilitation by the defendant, while protecting the public.

“I’m sorry for the actions that happened in the past,” Bingham said.

Judges have the option to ignore plea agreements and hand down sentences within legal guidelines. Mertz followed the plea agreement when sentencing Bingham. She told the defendant that, even though he is avoiding prison for now, the probation guidelines as a sex offender would not be easy.

“That is the most difficult probation to complete,” Mertz said. She stressed to him that if he failed to complete the recommendations of the probation, he will spend 20 years in prison.

“Based on the agreement...I find that’s most appropriate for you,” Mertz said. “We don’t take these offenses lightly.”

Bingham must also avoid all contact without anyone under age 18, unless he receives written permission from his probation officer. Mertz encouraged him to occupy himself with a job or furthering his education, and not to remain idle.