Questions Raised Over Child Molester's Sentence

Updated: 01/31/2014 6:51 PM
Created: 01/31/2014 6:42 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- On Thursday, ABC 6 News reported that a man in Austin who was convicted of sexual conduct with a young girl had entered a plea deal to avoid jail time.

Our Facebook page was full of comments from people wondering how this could happen, so we went to find out why.

Gary Hegna was originally charged with first and third degree sexual conduct for forcing himself on a young girl over a 5 year period.

Hegna pleaded guilty to a 3rd degree charge, and in accordance with state guidelines, was given probation because he was a first time offender.

Violating that probation would likely cost him 10 years in prison.

The Mower County Attorney's Office said that in general, cases that happened a long time ago involving child victims can be hard to prosecute and difficult to prove.

Victims’ advocates say re-living the abuse can be difficult.

“For a lot of victims, I think that going through the criminal court cases is re-traumatizing all in itself,” said Stephanie Holt, an organizer with Mission 21 in Rochester. “Even having to go through giving statements and testifying in court and having these hopes that justice will be served [can be hard]."

The Mower County Attorney's Office said it does not take such matters lightly. Prosecutors take both public safety and the victim's wishes into account when working on plea deals.

They said while they are never happy with a result like this because ultimately someone was hurt, they do feel “it was an appropriate resolution based on the facts.”