La PORTE – Four months after his first trial ended with a hung jury, a La Porte man was convicted Wednesday of child molesting for sexually abusing a young girl over a period of several years.
The La Porte County Prosecutor's office called it a "win for justice" after Timothy R. Hale, 34, was found guilty of child molesting by a jury in La Porte Circuit Court on Wednesday.
The jury found Hale guilty of Child Molesting as a Class A felony; Child Molesting as a Level 1 felony; two separate counts of Child Molesting as Level 4 felonies; and Child Solicitation as a Level 5 felony, according to court records.
The probable cause affidavit in the case alleged that Hale molested the girl over a period of about seven years, from the time she was 5 until she was 12. The abuse took place at homes in La Porte and Rolling Prairie, while Hale was the "on-and-off boyfriend of the girl's mother," according to deputy prosecuting attorney Julianne Havens.
According to court records, the molesting started with Hale fondling the girl; then showing her pornographic videos and asking if she "wanted to do that?"; and finally touching her inappropriately, though she told him it hurt and wanted him to stop.
The victim, now 15, stated the abuse sometimes happened two or three times a week for years, the affidavit states.
"These horrific crimes were committed over a period of several years, and a very brave young victim helped bring this predator to justice," a statement from the prosecutor's office said.
Hale was initially charged in October 2018 with five counts of child molesting for incidents that happened in 2009, 2013 and 2014, according to court records. He was also charged with child solicitation and display of inappropriate matter to a minor.
He was arrested and ordered held on a $100,000 cash-only bond, and has remained in the La Porte County Jail since his arrest, the judge twice denying defense motions for bond reduction.
His first jury trial started on May 13, 2019, and ended with a hung jury on May 15, according to court records. While the jury found Hale not guilty of the display of matter charge, it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the others.
When jurors said they would be unable to agree even if given more time, Judge Thomas Alevizos ruled a mistrial. The state immediately moved for a new trial – though it dismissed one of the molesting counts – which started on Monday and ended with the guilty verdicts on Wednesday.
Havens, the lead prosecutor on both cases, wasn't sure why the jury was able to reach a verdict the second time, but said, "I think they made the right decision."
She said it could have been the "order of the witnesses maybe. I had the Dunebrook forensic interviewer up first, followed by the victim ... I tried to ask some different questions, things the jurors might have been curious about, instead of things that were already evident from the indictments.
"Whatever it was, it went well. It may just have been the makeup of the jury," Havens said.
The prosecutor said one of the jurors from the first trial contacted her after the verdicts were announced Wednesday and thanked her.
"She said she was relieved. She was crying on the phone and thanked me for doing the right thing," Havens said.
Both trials were hard on the young victim, according to the prosecutor.
"When the first trial ended, I asked her how she felt about doing it again, and she said she didn't want to," Havens said. "But I explained it to her, and she finally said, 'OK, if you need me to'."
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 11, she said. If the judge gives the maximum sentence for all charges, and orders the sentences to run consecutively, Hale could face more than 125 years in prison, though Havens said that is unlikely.
She said she is still considering what advisory sentence to recommend to the judge, adding the Class A and Level 1 felonies each carry a maximum of 50 years, and are credit-restricted, meaning Hale would have to serve at least 85 percent.