SOUTH BEND — Pacific County Attorney Ben Haslam overcame the first big test of his tenure as prosecutor after Rick Hurley, 56, of Raymond was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for an array of shocking crimes.

Hurley was found guilty of multiple charges, including two counts of first degree child molestation and two counts of second degree incest after a three day trial held from Oct. 27, 2020 through Oct. 29, 2020 in front of Superior Court Judge Don Richter. He was sentenced on Jan. 8.

He was originally charged on March 12, 2020, in the Pacific County Superior Court for three felony charges: first degree rape of child, first degree child molestation, and first degree incest. The two victims were ages 3 and 5 when the crimes were committed.

“They are all sex offenses and the child molestation charges are class A sex offenses. So because of that, there is a mandatory life sentence, with the judge setting the minimum term that he has to serve in prison,” Haslam said. “To get out he would have to go before the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) and that board would decide if he would actually be released.”

He continued, “He could remain in prison up to life if the board decided he shouldn’t be released. I had asked the judge to impose a minimum time of confinement of 33 years in prison and what he ended up imposing was a total of 320 months (26 years and 8 months). That is based on because we had two children victims in this case.”

Richter sentenced Hurley to 160 months per child he harmed, with the sentence to run consecutively. The 320 months is the minimum he will serve and he will not automatically be released from prison when the term is up, since the ISRB will determine if he will remain confined.

“They [would] decide if [still] a danger to the community and if he has participated in sexual deviancy treatment appropriately [and] if he is remorseful for his actions and things like that before they would release him,” Haslam said.

A cooperative effort

The trial was a tough one for the rookie prosecutor and the ongoing pandemic only added to the difficulties. He said he relied on his staff and even reached out to other prosecutors for advice. Each was more than willing to provide insights, he said.

“It was definitely a very intense trial and I had some complicated issues,” Haslam said. “Coordinating a variety of witnesses, especially working with very young children who were obviously terrified to come into court was a big challenge, as well as just trying to pick a jury during the pandemic.”

He continued, “Cases like this are extremely difficult in normal times and I am really appreciative to [all the agencies] and especially Deputy Jesse Eastham and the victims who had to come to court multiple times, including young children to testify as well as the foster parents who at a great inconvenience to them had to travel and bring those children here and then comfort them through a very traumatic process. I really appreciate all the work of all these people who helped us put this case on. It was an important case and we had to hold Mr. Hurley accountable.”

First big win

The trial was the first major one for Haslam since he was appointed to be the new prosecutor on Aug. 11, 2020 after the sudden departure of Mark McClain. The guilty verdict has provided Haslam with a sense of relief and a vindication that he was the right man for the job.

“I think the case went as well as we could have hoped for,” Haslam said. “I would have rather we [started] with some simpler cases but this is the case that needed to be tried and [I] just had to step up and do it.”

Haslam’s office has heard from other potential Hurley victims and encourages them to report alleged crimes to law enforcement so he can be held accountable for all his actions. At the end of his current sentence and earliest point he is expected to have a chance to leave prison, Hurley will be 82 years old.

“We hear those calls and [they are] part of the reason we knew we had to have really serious sentences on this,” Haslam added. “We are glad we were able to serve justice in this case.”

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