URBANA — Incredulous supporters of a Savoy man who admitted he repeatedly molested a child in his care several years ago wept as a Champaign County judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison Friday.
Judge Roger Webber said it was hard to reconcile the mostly law-abiding, church-going Dusten Jenkins with the man whose victim said he molested her “every single day” for about five years.
Jenkins, 36, pleaded guilty in October to two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, admitting two separate acts of sexual misconduct with a minor child that occurred in 2013 and 2014.
In return for his guilty pleas, Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Clark dismissed two more serious charges of predatory criminal sexual assault that could have landed Jenkins behind bars for as many as 60 years had he been convicted.
The courtroom was filled with about 30 supporters of Jenkins, who was employed by The Vineyard Church in Urbana as a graphic designer prior to his arrest. He was let go from that post after his arrest in June 2018.
Prior to Friday’s hearing, Jenkins’ attorney, Baku Patel, gave Webber 43 letters of support, many of them from fellow church members who spoke of him kindly.
To aggravate Jenkins’ sentence, Clark had Champaign police Detective Chad Shipley highlight some of what he learned during his investigation.
Shipley said the sex-abuse allegations came to light in May 2018, when the child was sent to counseling by her mother after she revealed being inappropriately touched by a relative. When her counselor asked her if anyone else had ever touched her in a way she didn’t like, the girl tabbed Jenkins.
“It was a surprise to everybody,” Shipley testified.
He said the child also shared details of what Jenkins did to her, allegedly between 2010 and 2015, with a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center.
Jenkins was in a caretaker role over the child and molested her in her room when her mother was away or sleeping. The child told the interviewer that she believed Jenkins, who is a self-employed photographer, took pictures of her during the abuse and that it was common for him to be at his computer both before and after he molested her.
The victim told the interviewer that Jenkins had asked her not to tell anyone what he was doing “because it was illegal.”
Shipley said “nothing of evidentiary value” was found on Jenkins’ computer or other electronic devices following his arrest, which took place three years after the molestation ended.
To further aggravate Jenkins’ sentence, Clark asked Shipley about his review of a 2000 incident when Jenkins, then 16, had sexual contact with a 4-year-old girl.
Shipley interviewed that victim, now an adult woman, who recalled that Jenkins had her perform sex acts on him. Jenkins had told authorities at the time that the girl had kissed him and touched his crotch. Although police interviewed him in 2000, he was not criminally prosecuted.
Arguing for a sentence of 14 years in prison, Clark said the child gave details to the forensic interviewer that, given her young age, she “should not have known.”
And she urged Webber to hold Jenkins accountable, based on his conduct with the younger child years ago.
“While it might have been written off as adolescent explorative behavior, we now know what that was. The state failed that girl. We should not fail this child,” Clark said.
She said Jenkins continues to minimize what he did to the child, saying he was “stressed at work” and drinking a lot, and that it only happened two or three times.
“He is still not taking responsibility. People need to be protected from him,” she said.
Patel argued that Jenkins had taken responsibility by pleading guilty and that a sex-offender evaluator opined that he is at low to moderate risk to reoffend and is likely to succeed at treatment thanks to the broad support of family and friends.
Patel urged the judge to sentence Jenkins to probation.
Jenkins apologized to his victim.
“I betrayed her trust, and the guilt of it has haunted me every day since,” he said.
He also apologized to the girl’s mother, his own son for failing to be a role model, and the members of the Vineyard Church.
“I tried to be seen as a giver, an example of someone that loves God,” he said, telling the judge he planned to get treatment and further his education in psychology so he could help other molesters.
Webber agreed that Jenkins’ guilty plea was the first step in rehabilitation but also called it a way to reduce his exposure to a lengthy prison term.
Webber said there was a distinct “dichotomy” between what the sex-offender evaluator said of Jenkins and what the authors of the 43 letters of support said.
“It’s almost hard to believe the same person is the object of those discussions,” Webber said.
Jenkins was taken into custody immediately. He will have to register as a sex offender for life.