RACINE - If it wasn't for hot pink bras and black sequined panties, Gary Becker would probably have walked out of the Racine County Law Enforcement Center facing several years of probation.
But because the former mayor went to Boston Store and bought nine items of lingerie and a candy bar, he went to prison instead.
Racine County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Simanek said Wednesday that he was prepared to give Becker probation, until he received information about the Feb. 16 lingerie purchase.
Instead, Simanek sentenced Becker to three years in prison and five years extended supervision for attempted sexual assault of a child and child enticement. He was handcuffed as the sentencing came to a close, and immediately taken into custody.
A clerk at the store reported Becker had been in the store, and spent some time perusing the racks before purchasing the items with a personal credit card.
District Attorney Mike Nieskes displayed a foam board covered with duplicate items of lingerie at the sentencing. The state decried Becker's purchase, saying he was buying underwear more appropriate for a teenager than an adult woman.
The defense tried to explain it, saying he is dating a 46-year-old woman, and giving her height and weight.
"If you're sexually sober I submit you're not buying lingerie for another female," said Assistant District Attorney Robert Repischak.
He said what particularly concerned him was that nobody knew the girlfriend existed.
"Had we not known he went to the Boston Store to purchase lingerie, had we not known that, this woman would have been a persona non grata," Repischak said. "She would have been completely off the radar from anybody. If she's off the radar, I don't know what else is off the radar."
The judge said Becker's lingerie purchase clearly indicated he needed more intensive treatment.
"I can fairly say until this came to light I would have taken a chance on Mr. Becker," Simanek said. "I would have taken the risk of an imposed and stayed sentence with probation supervision. But I am convinced in light of what has recently happened that Mr. Becker needs continued rehabilitative treatment and that it can best be effectively provided in a confined setting."
Becker was arrested over a year ago on charges that he planned a sexual encounter with an undercover agent who posed online as a teenage girl. Becker pleaded guilty in December to attempted sexual assault of a child and child enticement. Several other charges - including using a computer to facilitate a sex crime, misconduct in public office and possession of child pornography - were dismissed.
The maximum sentence Simanek could have given Becker was 25 years in prison and 15 years extended supervision.
At the beginning of the sentencing, Nieskes spent about 15 minutes reading excerpts of explicit chats recovered from Becker's computer. In nearly every one of them, Becker solicited information about and pictures of young girls - either the person he was chatting with or the children of the women who were on the other end of the chat.
He also made requests for his chat partners' bra sizes.
Simanek said that was part of what concerned him with Becker's Boston Store purchases.
"I don't particularly care whether Becker bought (the items) for a 46-year-old individual," Simanek said. "He's lurking around in the lingerie department of Boston Store picking out (size small panties and bras)."
The lingerie purchase and the chats Nieskes mentioned were not illegal. Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty pointed out that despite extensive access to Becker's computer and other items the state found no evidence of anything illegal.
"The difference between having those thoughts, those fantasies, and acting out in those matters are two totally different things," Cafferty said. "There is no evidence he ever realistically attempted to connect with anyone that was an underage person."
In a short statement, Becker apologized multiple times for his actions, and said he takes responsibility for it.
"I never tried to blame others for my problems. I realize I have taken a solid reputation built over years of helping others and trashed it. I believe a reputation takes years to grow and mature, and one careless act can destroy it."
Given how the court interpreted his Boston Store visit, it appears Simanek believes Becker is still learning that last point.
|The Gary Becker case: a live conversation with reporter Janine Anderson||(02/28/2010)|
|[Standby] See you Tuesday at noon.|
In your opinion, what should Becker be sentenced to?
Three years or less of prison
More than three years prison
( 27% )
( 70% )
( 3% )
For those of you who said Becker should get more than three years in prison, what amount would you say is appropriate?
( 40% )
( 10% )
( 10% )
( 5% )
( 35% )
What sentence do you think Becker will get?
Less than 5 years probation
More than 5 years probation
( 9% )
3 years prison or less, with supervision
( 9% )
More than 3 years prison, with supervision
( 5% )
( 77% )