Justices reduce sentence for man convicted of rape

In granting a petition to transfer, Indiana Supreme Court justices lowered a man’s sentence after he was convicted of three counts of felony rape. A dissenting justice, however, would have denied transfer in the case.

Thomas Jackson sentenced to 36 years in prison after he was convicted of three counts of Level 3 felony rape of a “moderately, mentally handicapped” woman. Jackson insisted it was consensual, but the issue was whether the woman could, and did, legally consent to sex with him. After the first trial on the charges ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, a second jury found Jackson guilty of all three offenses in December 2018.

During the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor acknowledged that Jackson, then 52, had led a law-abiding life and recommended that the court impose the advisory sentence of nine years for each of the three counts. The prosecutor also did not object to a split sentence with part of that time served on probation.

The LaPorte Superior Court, however, sentenced Jackson to consecutive sentences of 12 years on each count, for an executed sentence of 36 years.

Splitting on what to do, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Jackson’s convictions and sentence. But Judge Elaine Brown dissented on his sentence, writing that an enhanced prison term for a low-risk offender with no criminal history “does not reflect the goals of reformation or rehabilitation.”

Upon granting his petition to transfer, the majority of the Supreme Court in Thomas K. Jackson v. State of Indiana, 20S-CR-315, revised Jackson’s sentence to 27 years, with seven of those years suspended to probation.

“During the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor and trial court identified two mitigating factors: Jackson’s lack of criminal history and his low risk to reoffend as identified in the Presentence Investigation Report. Aggravators included Jackson’s violation of a position of trust and his lack of remorse — though the trial court conceded that the latter was ‘consistent with [Jackson’s] claim of a consensual relationship.’ The prosecutor recommended that Jackson receive the advisory sentence for each charge, for a total of 27 years,” the majority wrote in a per curiam opinion.

“Whether a sentence should be deemed inappropriate ‘turns on our sense of the culpability of the defendant, the severity of the crime, the damage done to others, and myriad other factors that come to light in a given case.’ Pursuant to our authority under Appellate Rule 7(B), we find that exceeding the 27-year sentence the prosecutor recommended, absent more significant aggravating factors, is inappropriate under the circumstances of this case.”

It therefore affirmed the remainder of the Court of Appeals opinion and remanded to the trial court to issue a revised sentencing order consistent of no more than 27 years. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter dissented, believing that transfer should be denied.

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