Elkhorn man receives 10 years probation in sexual assault of a child

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Jonah Beleckis | August 8, 2016

ELKHORN—The cycle of sexual abuse—victims later becoming perpetrators—is a circle Walworth County Judge Kristine Drettwan said the criminal justice system is trying to break.

But there's still much work to be done, she said.

Jose Figueroa, who said he was abused when he was 8 until he was almost 11, became a part of the cycle and was convicted of sexually abusing a boy he knew.

Drettwan withheld Figueroa's sentence Friday, placing him on 10 years of probation with six months of jail with work-release privileges.

Given the context of the crime, probation was appropriate, she said.

Figueroa pleaded guilty April 8 to first-degree sexual assault of a child, according to online court records. The charge was reduced from repeated sexual assault of a child.

Figueroa made a boy he knew perform various sexual acts multiple times, prosecutor Haley Johnson said. The sexual assaults occurred between January 2006 and December 2009 at an Elkhorn home.

The victim was between the ages of 5 and 9 at the time. Figueroa, now 22, was between 11 and 14 years old.

The victim was reportedly afraid of physical punishment if he did not listen to Figueroa, Johnson said.

The victim did not disclose the assaults until an Aug. 6, 2015, interview with Rock County Child Protective Services, according to the criminal complaint.

Because the crime was not reported when Figueroa was a juvenile, he was prosecuted in adult court.

Figueroa has had difficulties finding affordable counseling options, defense attorney Melissa Frost said. The lack of options has left Figueroa emotionally distressed, she said.

“The best thing from this case is he (Figueroa) will get the counseling he needs,” Frost said.

The maximum sentence for Figueroa's conviction was 60 years in prison, and Drettwan acknowledged it was unusual for her to order probation.

“If you were an adult when this happened, you would be going to prison, absolutely no doubt in my mind,” Drettwan said. “But you were a boy, and you had been victimized yourself.”

Melissa Westendorf, a clinical psychologist who conducts forensic evaluations of sex offenders, concluded that Figueroa was a low risk to reoffend because sexual deviancy stopped in adolescence and he has had two “significant and appropriate” relationships since the offense.

Using adult-specific actuarial measures to complete a risk assessment would “greatly overestimate the risk” of Figueroa to reoffend, she said, emphasizing that the assaults exclusively took place as a juvenile.

Westendorf said research shows 3 percent to 5 percent of juveniles offenders go on to commit sex offenses as adults.

Although there were no new instances of sexual assault reported, Figueroa was on two years probation after pleading guilty to delivering marijuana June 2, 2015.
Drettwan said she believed drugs and alcohol were a coping mechanism for Figueroa.

Figueroa will report to jail Wednesday after arranging his work release.

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