The 23-year-old woman who was raped at gunpoint by Demarcus Chaney after she left a south Minneapolis bar last summer chose to stay away from his sentencing Thursday because she wants to move on with her life.
But her voice wasn't silent in the courtroom. The distress and pain caused by an attack by a complete stranger was relayed by prosecutor Therese Galatowitsch, who said the young woman couldn't understand how any human being could treat another the way she was treated. Chaney "is a nothing," Galatowitsch said.
Hennepin County District Judge Dan Mabley sentenced Chaney to 30 years in prison, an unusually lengthy sentence for a first-degree sexual assault conviction. It was near the top end of the state's sentencing guideline for such a crime, Galatowitsch said.
"The sentence was fairly uncommon, but it was a really appropriate sentence for a heinous crime," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "This is everybody's worse nightmare. This is the kind of case we save the top of the [guideline] box for."
Chaney, 33, who was in handcuffs in the courtroom because of threats he's made to deputies and others involved in the case, declined to speak when asked by Mabley whether he wanted to.
David Connor, Chaney's attorney, argued for a 22-year sentence, which he said was at the lower end of the guidelines. He said the prosecution had offered that sentence in a plea deal, but Chaney rejected it, and his case went to trial.
"Demarcus has many obstacles in his life that he needs to address and overcome," Connor said. "He can still come out of prison and be a productive member of society."
Photo was key evidence
The woman gave emotional testimony during the trial about what happened last June. Chaney had attempted some small talk before he grabbed and assaulted her behind Mortimer's bar near 22nd Street and Lyndale Avenue S. about 2 a.m. He put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her.
With a friend by her side, she told officers shortly after the assault that she was having trouble recalling specific details because she had been intoxicated.
Two weeks after the attack, police released a photo of a "person of interest." It was a photo of Chaney from a store where he had tried to sell the cellphone he stole from her during the assault.
The photos prompted a probation officer and corrections officer to come forward with information about Chaney, police said. His DNA from the assault matched a DNA sample stored on the state's convicted offender database from a burglary case in 1999.
Chaney, who didn't take the stand on his behalf, maintained his innocence Thursday, Connor said. In his appeal for the shorter sentence, the attorney said Chaney had been forthcoming about his chemical dependency issues and that he would be a middle-age man when released from prison, even with the shorter sentence. There is a lesser chance for recidivism for older sex offenders, he said.
Galatowitsch countered that Chaney should be considered an extreme public safety risk because of the violence involved in the rape and the vulnerability of the victim. Stranger rapes are particularly rare, police say.
As part of his sentence, Mabley said Chaney must register as a sex offender when he gets out of prison and pay restitution. State law also requires that he be tested for HIV, and the results will be provided to the victim, he said.
Several of Chaney's relatives and friends attended the short hearing, but declined to comment afterward.
When Freeman heard that Chaney had suggested Thursday he was still innocent, he said, "We sure don't" think so.
"DNA doesn't lie," Freeman said. "I've seen some bad sexual assault cases, and this is one of the worst we've had."