A Mount Prospect man convicted of the aggravated criminal sexual assault of a 15-year-old co-worker was sentenced Wednesday to 24 years in prison.
Herbert Burgess, 58, showed no emotion upon hearing Cook County Judge Ellen Mandletort's sentence, which followed testimony from the now 16-year-old and his parents as well as two others: a teenage co-worker of the victim who said Burgess touched him inappropriately several times and a 49-year-old Wisconsin man who testified Burgess groped him in 1978. Burgess himself also testified, insisting the jury made a mistake.
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"I am innocent of these charges. I know I am. I hope you would see that," Burgess said to Mandletort moments before sentencing.
In December, a jury found Burgess guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault, unlawful restraint and criminal sexual assault of the teen, who in 2011 was working a summer job at the John S. Swift Co. in Buffalo Grove, where Burgess was the human resources manager.
In addition to 24 years for aggravated criminal sexual assault, Mandletort also sentenced Burgess to 15 years for criminal sexual assault and three years for unlawful restraint, with sentences to be served concurrently. Burgess, who received credit for 529 days in custody, must register as a sex offender upon his release.
"What a wasted life. And look at the lives he laid waste to," said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Gerber, insisting that by buying the boys gifts and treating them to dinner Burgess cultivated his victims and then destroyed their youth.
"Mr. Burgess can never be deterred," he said, referring to Burgess' 1978 conviction on the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a child, for which he received one year of probation. "This man must be put away."
The victim's mother, also a Swift employee, described for the court how sad and angry Burgess' betrayal made her, and how proud she was of her son for speaking out. The victim's father expressed relief that Burgess will "never steal another boy's soul."
In a statement read by Gerber, the victim described his ongoing battles with depression, anger and loss of appetite.
"With counseling and with my parents' help, I hope to feel normal again," he said.
Burgess' brother-in-law Tom Zanck described Burgess as a hard worker and a gentleman who is devoted to his family and spent decades volunteering for the Salvation Army, earning accolades for his efforts.
Defense attorney Eric Rinehart maintained "the truth did not come out in this case" and insisted the victim's father framed Burgess after making up the allegations to obtain a financial settlement from the printing company.