A Santa Rosa man facing charges of molesting his young step-granddaughter has taken a plea deal that led to his release, but it was over the objections of county and state authorities.
Thomas Anthony Happ, 58, was accused of molesting his step-granddaughter starting when she was 3 or 4, and increasing to three or four times a week after he and his wife separated when the girl was 10. The girl is now 14 years old.
The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office offered a plea deal to Happ and recommended he be sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in state prison and eventually paroled. A Napa County Probation Department report and a state study also recommended the same, according to a press release.
But the molestation victim and her grandmother argued that Happ should instead be sentenced to probation, since the man has liver disease, the press release stated.
Sonoma County Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite sentenced Happ to five years probation, and he was released Thursday.
Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said in a statement Happ deserved harsher punishment, despite his illness:
“We strenuously argued for this predator’s imprisonment. He abused this child over the course of a decade. While we respect the victim’s wishes, we reject the notion that she should bear responsibility for the defendant’s sentencing and its resultant impacts on his health and the remainder of the family. He alone is responsible for the consequences of his actions. The victim was particularly vulnerable, as she was being raised by the defendant and his wife. The reports before the court demonstrated this man is a pedophile. Public safety dictated a serious term of incarceration.”
Happ will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and will have to complete a sex offender treatment program, according to the press release. He was originally charged with seven counts of sexual molestation, and one of those charges carried a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life.
He had been in custody since January of 2013.
Sign up for the free Petaluma Patch newsletter |
Like Petaluma Patch on Facebook |
Follow @PetalumaPatch on Twitter |
Blog for Petaluma Patch