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Molester’s 80 years pared as 1 victim recants

– In early 2011, Gerald Van Patten was sentenced to 80 years after a jury convicted him of three counts of child molesting involving two victims.

He is now guilty of only molesting one.

The charges filed in November 2009 alleged he performed sex acts and had sexual intercourse with two young girls sometime between December 2008 and August 2009.

But one of those girls, very young at the time of the alleged assault, recanted her testimony, leaving prosecutors with the testimony of the forensic nurse who examined the girls. Van Patten’s attorney objected during the trial, saying the testimony constituted hearsay. Allen Superior Judge John Surbeck allowed the testimony, and the jury convicted Van Patten of three of four counts involving the molestation of both girls.

Surbeck sentenced Van Patten to a total of 80 years – 40 years for molesting one girl and 30 years for molesting the girl who had recanted.

In May, the Indiana Supreme Court overturned the conviction in the counts involving the victim who recanted, citing in part her young age and likely inability to know by experience she was supposed to tell the truth to medical professionals during an exam.

The state’s highest court ordered Surbeck to vacate the convictions for the specific charges related to that victim, and reduced the sentence to the 40 years.

That left Allen County prosecutors with the choice to either retry Van Patten on those charges or to dismiss that part of the case.

In a hearing Friday morning, prosecutors dismissed those charges against Van Patten, saying the girl’s mother wanted the charges dismissed because “she does not wish for her daughter to have to participate any further in the prosecution of these matters,” according to court records.

Surbeck granted the state’s request, dismissing those two charges.

Van Patten, now 45, remains convicted and sentenced to 40 years on the other count of child molesting. Because his conviction involves a sex crime, he is not eligible for release until 2050.

rgreen@jg.net

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