Thursday, June 15, 2000

Molester gets 20 years; victim gets AIDS

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A 13-year-old boy's world collapsed in February when he learned he had contracted AIDS after being sexually assaulted by a Middletown man.

        “I wanted to kill myself after I got the disease,” the boy said in a written statement that was read aloud in a Butler County courtroom Wednesday during the sentencing of the man who infected him with AIDS. “I feel sorry for myself and am sad most of the time.”

        The boy urged Common Pleas Judge Michael Sage to punish his assailant, Gary L. Cooper Jr., as severely as possible. Mr. Cooper pleaded guilty in March to one count of rape and one count of felonious assault.

        “I want him to go to jail a long, long time so he doesn't hurt any other people,” the boy said in his statement, which was read in court by a Butler County Children Services case worker.

        Judge Sage complied with his wishes. Calling it the most horrific case of child abuse he has seen, he handed Mr. Cooper the maximum sentence — 20 years in prison.

        “I can't think of anything more horrible or cruel than what you've done to this victim,” the judge said. “You have no remorse or showed no regard for the welfare and safety of the victim.”

        He declared Mr. Cooper a sexual predator. Under Ohio law, when he's released from prison, he must report to the sheriff's department four times a year for the rest of his life. His neighbors would be notified of his sexual predator status.

        Mr. Cooper, 40, apologized before being sentenced.

        “I'm sorry,” he said. “What I did was wrong.”

        But Judge Sage said Mr. Cooper's psychological evaluation indicates that he blames the boy, not himself.

        Mr. Cooper has told police he tested positive for HIV in 1988. He has been accused of raping the boy in 1997, 1998 and 1999, but pleaded guilty only to the 1997 rape. The two other rape charges were dropped.

        In his statement, the boy said during the sexual assaults he repeatedly told Mr. Cooper to stop. He said Mr. Cooper held him to prevent him from pulling away.

        Now living temporarily in a foster home, the boy said he misses his friends.

        AIDS, he said, rules his life. He must take six pills at night and three pills in the morning and must visit his doctor once a month.

        “I don't like all the needles and the blood they take out,” the boy said.

        He said he can no longer play on a football team nor look forward to the kind of life most people have.

        “I have lost the possibility of marriage and children,” he said. “I feel different from others, like I'm not normal like I need to be.”

        Mr. Cooper's attorney, Monica Spahn, said he is deeply remorseful. “He feels terrible,” she said.

        Police are investigating whether Mr. Cooper may have sexually assaulted other juveniles, Middletown Detective Frederick Shumake said.

        Two of the boy's female relatives are accused of trying to cover up the crimes committed by Mr. Cooper. They have been indicted on charges of obstructing justice, and one also faces a charge of child endangering. Their names are being withheld to protect the victim's identity.

        Detective Shumake and Assistant Prosecutor Kacy Eaves said this is the most emotionally wrenching case they have ever handled.

        Ms. Eaves said that after interviewing the boy for the first time in February, she went home and cried.

        “I pride myself on being a tough prosecutor, but it was emotionally difficult for all of us,” she said.

        The boy is receiving counseling as well as medical care, and his emotional state is improving, Ms. Eaves said.

        Detective Shumake said he asked Mr. Cooper why he didn't at least try to protect the boy from being infected with AIDS.

        “He said, "He knew I was sick,'” Detective Shumake said. “It's pretty sordid. I just hope there are no other victims. I wouldn't want to see anybody go through what this victim has.”


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