It was an emotional day for the victims of Christopher Hidy. Hidy, who had earlier this year pled guilty to 4 counts of child molestation and 1 count of attempting to tamper with a victim, was …
It was an emotional day for the victims of Christopher Hidy. Hidy, who had earlier this year pled guilty to 4 counts of child molestation and 1 count of attempting to tamper with a victim, was sentenced at the Henry County Courthouse on the third floor, Judge Julie Highley presiding, July 19. The court proceedings were supposed to start at 3 pm, however due to a problem with a trial schedule, one of Hidy's defense attorneys was late. It was about 4:15 p.m. before the proceeding began which might have added to some of the tension the victims in the court room were feeling.
The defense, led by Chase Higinbotham (the other attorney for Mr. Hidy is Marcus Reed), began by noting some changes made to the SAR (sentencing assessment report): he pointed out changes had been submitted concerning Hidy's change in address, social media accesses and uses, and with the neighborhood problems portion of the assessment. Assistant Prosecutor LaChrisha Gray challenged all the “corrections.” An additional report was submitted by the defense as well– an assessment/evaluation from an expert in the field. AP Gray argued that she could not “cross examine” a packet or the report the defense submitted – however the court did admit the assessment as an aid to sentencing.
Lauren Stoss was the only witness called: Stoss is with probation and parole and the majority of her caseload are sex offenders. The one thing indicated in the SAR (which Ms. Stoss administered) was that there always seemed to be a justification or excuse in conjunction with any statement made by Hidy during the SAR process. At one point it was reported that a young girl of 14, through what was reported to be an emergency situation, was staying with the Hidy family at their residence - after he had been charged. The defense countered by saying that Hidy removed the child from their home and that some of the SAR testimony was taken out of context - or at least only partially delivered. Be that as it may, the STATIC-99R, the score that determines recidivism likeliness, was low – a zero.
The court next heard victim impact statements: there were eight in all. Several of the girls read statements about how their lives have been affected. Many have problems sleeping, have anxiety, and experience nightmares. One girl had even hid in a bedroom with the family dog for protection fearing Hidy might come and get her at one point. The girls also suffered some abuse from the community: some of their peers thought they were lying and at one time they ended up on a “hit list” at the school in Windsor. One girl lost her boyfriend who simply tried to hold her hand; the girl has problems with being touched in any way and has social phobias of sleeping over with friends and sometimes just even being around adults.
The parents, too, gave statements: one father said that Hidy's actions not only affect the kids, but also the parents in ways hard to make plain. One father said he found himself distancing himself from girls invited over and made sure he did not look in their direction while his daughter had a friend visit. Another father simply said that seeing Hidy was a trigger for his anger and that was hard to contain: “It is like hanging a piece of meat in front of a pit bull,” he said. “I want to tear him up.” One girl summed up, in a letter, the way she felt: “When it happened I felt very alone. Afterwards, he made me think it was my fault.” All of the girls expressed feeling unsafe in normal places – like the grocery store.
One mother expressed the feelings of helplessness concerning the girls: after years of being able to hug or kiss a pain away, or “put a band-aid on it,” this was a pain she could do nothing about. “Worse yet,” said one mother, “he broke her faith in God; I don't even see her pray anymore.” She explained that the girl also quit softball and would not play unless it was in a different town – and her dad was the coach (which is what happened, by the way, and she did return to softball).
At closing arguments, AP Gray reiterated that she felt Hidy had never been held accountable for anything – and that it was a theme that appeared on his SAR again and again. Gray said it appeared that problems with his previous wife were blamed on her, that problems with the current wife are blamed on her drinking, and that even problem with being in online sex addictions were the fault of his wife, too: “I wouldn't be on here if my wife was giving me sex.” Gray said that the way he described the incidents (in the SAR) was somehow like it was “their fault” (the victims). “I understand that part of the justice system is about rehabilitation,” said Gray. “But part of it is about punishment.” She concluded by asking the court to impose the 7 year sentence for each of the counts.
Hidy's defense asserted that he had no criminal history, and that he had 20 years military service. He said Hidy did suffer from anxiety and depression but that he saw a psychiatrist and a counselor. He reasserted that the assessments show that Hidy was low risk and a good candidate for probation. He asked the court to give Hidy probation – but place any conditions it deemed necessary and appropriate as stipulations (no social media access, for instance). Higinbotham said Hidy had basically been out on bond for almost three years and that there had been no issues. AP Gray said that he had not been monitored since being on bond and that the state had tried to have his bond revoked at one time. “Remorse? I don't think he's shown remorse,” said Gray. “He's indicated that something happened, but that is not the same as remorse.”
Hidy made a statement on his own behalf – which he floundered with a little. He said the girls didn't take his innocence, he took theirs, and that since everything started he had sold his home and moved, and that he was sorry - “and it would never happen again.”
Judge Highley first addressed the victims/kids who were at the proceeding. “Thank you for being here,” she told them. She said that often she only sees initials and a birth date in regards to cases such as these (to protect the identity of the child). She also said that she hoped that Hidy's admission of guilt provided some level of comfort for them. But what bothered Judge Highley the most appeared to be an escalation of behaviors indicated in both assessments. She criticized Hidy's thinking when he took in a 14 year old after being charged and that she did not believe he had proper boundaries in place to not re-offend. “God gave us a brain to control our urges,” said Judge Highley.
The court sentenced Hidy to 7 years in prison for the four counts of child molestation to run concurrent. She reserved sentence for the fifth count until the SAR for that was complete. Many exclamations could be heard during and following Judge Highley's sentence announcement. Following that, sobs of tears from the victims and several of the victims' family members could be heard. Many had greatly feared that Hidy would only receive probation.
The final matter before the court was when Hidy would be taken into custody. Initially the judge told Hidy to report on July 26, however, AP Gray asked the court to take him today. “He knew there were only two possibilities today – there should not be any lose ends for him to tie up,” said Gray. The judge did not seem inclined to do so, but AP Gray asked that he at least be taken into custody and booked today and released on furlough. She argued that way the state could issue a warrant for him if he did not report on the day specified. The judge thought that reasonable and, following the court room being cleared, Hidy was taken into custody. The court room cleared about 6:30 p.m.
Outside the courthouse, many Guardians of the Gildren members were present in support of the victims and all waited for Hidy to be taken away by the bailiffs. After waiting about ten minutes, Hidy was escorted in cuffs to the patrol car. Many of those who had waited outside clapped their pleasure at him being driven away before themselves dispersing.