Molester’s 500-plus-year sentence largely upheld

A Rushville man’s sentence of more than 500 years in prison for sexually assaulting his two daughters over the course of their infancy, childhood and teen years was affirmed in large part Tuesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Bruce Sorenson was sentenced to an aggregate 590 years after he was convicted of sexually assaulting two of his daughters nearly every day throughout the course of their infancy to mid-teenage years. He was also convicted of sexually assaulting one of their childhood friends.

In Bruce A. Sorenson v. State of Indiana,19A-CR-565, Sorenson appealed one of his 14 child molesting and sexual misconduct convictions, arguing insufficient evidence proved he had committed Class B felony sexual misconduct with a minor.

The Indiana Court of Appeals found insufficient evidence from Sorenson’s eldest daughter’s testimony regarding vaginal penetration after she had turned 12 years old, noting that Sorenson’s conviction under the appealed count required the state to have shown he had vaginally penetrated her when she was between 14 and 16 years old. It therefore reversed that conviction and its corresponding 20-year sentence.

Additionally, the appellate court agreed with Sorenson’s argument that the trial court erred in determining he was a credit-restricted felon and that he could only serve one day of good-time credit for every six days deserved. Specifically, Sorenson argued there was an error in finding him to be a credit-restricted felon under Indiana’s post-July 1, 2008 statutory scheme for credit time. The changed statutory scheme found credit-restricted felons to include persons convicted of child molesting involving sexual intercourse or deviate sexual conduct if, among other things,  “the offense is committed by a person at least twenty one (21) years of age” and “the victim is less than twelve (12) years of age.”

“We are again obliged to agree with Sorenson that the trial court erred, at least in part, when it applied the amended statutes on credit time to each of his sentences,” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the court. It found that some of Sorenson’s offenses occurred before the 2008 date, that one of the girls was older than 12 before the statute changed, and that the girls were between the ages of 14 and 16 in other convictions.

“As such, those offenses could not be a basis for finding Sorenson to be a credit-restricted felon because the victims were not less than twelve years old at the time of those offenses,” the appellate court wrote. “… We reverse the trial court’s conclusion that Sorenson’s accumulation of good-time credit against his sentences for his convictions on Counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14 is limited by the amended statutes, and we remand with instructions for the trial court to apply the statutes in effect at the time Sorenson committed those offenses to determine Sorenson’s appropriate, initial class for the accrual of credit time against those sentences.”

The appellate court found only one of his convictions fell within the statutory scheme for credit time, and proceeded to affirm that the trial court’s newly imposed 570-year sentence was not inappropriate in light of the nature of Sorenson’s offenses or his character. It concluded the evidence was clear that his actions spanning more than a decade against his daughters and one of their friends revealed his “despicable character.”

“Still, Sorenson asserts that his 570-year aggregate sentence is an ‘outlier’ and cites as support three cases in which defendants convicted of multiple offenses of child molestation were sentenced to 125 years or fewer,” Najam wrote. “… We understand Sorenson’s argument that his sentence might not have a clear analog in our case law — but neither do the extreme facts underlying his convictions.

“In any event, Sorenson’s request for a downward revision of his term of years is an academic one,” the panel concluded. “Sorenson is currently fifty-two years old. Whatever actual number of years the trial court ordered him to serve is less meaningful than the outcome that term will unquestionably achieve: Sorenson’s permanent removal from society. There is no lower number of years we would impose that would alter that outcome.”

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