Man sentenced to 50 years for sexual abuse of 4 children

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 27, 2013 

A 42-year-old man convicted of sexually abusing four children will grow old behind bars. Michael Leon Shemesh was sentenced Tuesday to 50 years in prison.

Judge Carrie Runge said Shemesh selected and preyed on vulnerable victims and families, and doesn't acknowledge the crimes or victims.

Instead, "it is all about you," Runge told Shemesh during the tense hourlong hearing in Benton County Superior Court.

"I can understand when you're facing what you're facing that it might be about you," Runge said. "But at this point, this is about justice for everyone in the courtroom and closure for these victims."

Shemesh, who interrupted Runge more than once, maintained his innocence and said the children were intimidated by authorities.

He also asked for a retrial and for investigations of the prosecutors and defense attorneys involved in the case.

"This is a death sentence, plain and simple," Shemesh said, noting he has a long history of medical issues. "And it's a death sentence based on lies and fabrications, intimidation of children by people put into a higher position of trust."

After he serves 50 years he can petition the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board for release.

Shemesh was charged with three counts of first-degree rape of a child, two counts of second-degree possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and one count of first-degree child molestation. The rape and molestation charges included aggravating factors that there was an ongoing pattern of abuse and that Shemesh used his position of trust to commit the crimes.

A jury in December deliberated for just 45 minutes before finding him guilty.

Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long on Tuesday requested a sentence longer than the standard range for the rape and molestation charges because of those aggravating factors.

"These children have suffered damage that is not repairable. We can sugarcoat it or try to get them in counseling, but they are going to carry the damage of what the defendant did to them for the rest of their lives," she said.

Shemesh was represented by several attorneys during the course of the case, which was filed in 2009. He talked Tuesday about issues he had with his defense.

Kevin Holt, the attorney who represented him at trial, said Tuesday that Shemesh didn't get adequate counsel. He urged Runge not to impose the exceptionally long sentence, saying taking away any hope of eventual release wouldn't be justice.

Shemesh abused three boys and a girl starting in 2001, according to court documents. Investigators found video of Shemesh with some of the children. Tapes show, for example, Shemesh caressing a boy's bottom and climbing onto a bed with a naked boy, documents said.

Three of the victims have moved away from the area but returned for the trial; authorities haven't been able to determine the identity of a fourth victim seen on video, Long said.

"(That boy) is never going to have closure. We're never going to find out who he is because the only one in this room that knows ... is the defendant, and he's not telling," Long said during the hearing.

Shemesh said he never was asked to identity the boy, and "when I did identify him -- readily, with him willing to come in and testify on my behalf -- (one of my attorneys) said not to."

Shemesh has no other felony convictions, but Long has said other children have made allegations against him dating to 1994.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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