LIMA — Stripped of his badge and the honor that goes with the job, a fired Lima police officer learned Thursday his freedom also would be taken away for the next 14 years for raping a 16-year-old girl.
Justin Bentz, 28, was sentenced to prison for the June 11 rape at a home west of Lima where he lived with a roommate. In addition, he will have to register and report in as a sex offender when he is released every 90 days for the rest of his life.
Bentz sat stone-faced throughout the hearing and had nothing to say based on the advice of his attorney to remain silent. An appeal of the decision is being planned.
Before Judge David Cheney sentenced Bentz, the judge said he had tremendous respect for police and the job officers do. Cheney also said police probably are more criticized today by various groups, sometimes unfairly, than during any time in history. However, the judge said the Bentz case is not one of those. Cheney said this was a clear case of a crime by an officer.
“He was an adult over and above being a police officer,” Cheney said. “This girl looked like she was 12 years old and to somehow indicate one was mistaken about her age is on the preposterous side.”
Besides Bentz’ position as a police officer, Cheney said he was especially troubled by the fact that just hours before Bentz raped the girl, he attended a law enforcement class educating him about sexual assault, the effects of alcohol in such cases, and the pitfalls of prosecuting such cases.
Special Prosecutor Todd Schroeder asked for the maximum sentence of 22 years, explaining there were too many factors that made the crime more severe from his position of trust. He pointed to the victim’s age and the education just hours before on sexual assault.
“He proceeded to do what he had just spent time studying what he cannot do. He gave her alcohol to the point this little girl could not even get off the floor,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said all Bentz cared about was his own sexual gratification. The prosecutor added that Bentz’ efforts to protect himself after the incident and throughout the trial showed he only cared for himself and not the traumatized the victim.
A letter from the victim’s parents was read as a victim’s impact statement. It expressed their concerns about their daughter’s well-being in the future and how the crime could affect the rest of her life. They said it’s been a horrible situation for her whole family to endure.
Bentz’ attorney, Bill Kluge, asked for a sentence of no more than eight years and wanted the sentences on rape and kidnapping to run at the same time, arguing both were part of one crime. However Schroeder argued, and the judge agreed, Bentz had the victim hide in the closet to try to conceal the crime.
Kluge told the judge only two people know what happened that morning, the victim and Bentz, but both gave completely different versions of the event. He said often times that indicates what truly happened was somewhere in the middle.
“He will have a lot of time to think about his actions on that morning,” Kluge said.
Kluge also asked Cheney to request Bentz receive special treatment in his placement within the state prison system since Bentz is a former police officer convicted of a sex offense against a child. Any three of those factors often make life harder for an inmate with the other inmates.
Cheney said the file would be documented for state prison officials to read.
A spokesman for the state prison systems said each inmate is assessed upon entry into the system. If there is a need for additional security, the inmate may be placed in a protective custody unit. The unit is not just for former police officers, he said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.