The teenage girl Randall Behning sexually abused testified at his sentencing hearing Tuesday, which concluded with Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt sentencing the Elgin man to 36 years in prison.
The young woman, now 18 and in college, described how Behning's sexual abuse "totally derailed" her transition into her teenage years. She recalled struggling with anorexia, self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide. She described sleeplessness and crying bouts and the toll they took on her grades, which began to spiral downward. She testified about distancing herself from her friends whose first boyfriends and first kisses were experiences she would never know.
"I would never get my first kiss back," she said. "Who would want a damaged girl like me for a girlfriend? What would they think when they found out?"
"I want to feel safe again, and I want to know that at least I've been able to prevent harm to other girls," said the victim, who held hands with her mother during the hearing. "While nothing can give me back what I lost ... I want to know that going to court was worth it.
"I want to move on without regret, knowing that I did everything I could and in the end I was able to finally get the victory I was fighting for," she said.
Greenblatt found Behning guilty of multiple counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, child pornography and indecent solicitation of an adult following a bench trial last June.
The victim testified that Behning sexually abused her for more than 2½ years beginning when she was 12. The girl testified that in addition, Behning encouraged her to watch pornography and pose clothed and unclothed in photographs and posted online ads looking for younger sexual partners for her. He also invited a male acquaintance to have sex with her but the man refused, she said.
Behning denied sexually abusing the girl.
His attorney Nischal Raval argued for a minimum sentence of 26 years for his client, an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran who he said led "a lawful life."
"He's not someone useless who we should throw away, Raval said.
Several family members testified on Behning's behalf, describing him as generous and helpful. Karen Anderson, Behning's sister, called him a "compassionate and gentle person ... who never held a grudge."
Anderson wept as she asked Greenblatt for compassion. Behning showed no emotion upon hearing the sentence.
For the most serious sexual assault charges, Greenblatt imposed sentences ranging from six to eight years, to be served consecutively. Behning, who received credit for 698 days in custody, must complete at least 85 percent of the sentences before he is eligible for parole. For the other charges, including child pornography and solicitation, Greenblatt imposed sentences ranging from three to five years, with Behning being required to serve 50 percent.
Arguing for a substantial prison sentence, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jason Poje insisted a minimum sentence was insufficient.
A long sentence not only punishes Behning, said Poje, it serves as a deterrent.
"Potential offenders need to know that victims will have their day in court ... and they (offenders) will be prosecuted," he said.