ELKTON — A North East-area teen who molested a girl in his neighborhood two years ago, when he was a 17-year-old high school student, received a two-year term Tuesday — one year behind bars at the county jail, followed by one year on home detention.
Corrections officers handcuffed 19-year-old Connor Hook, a 2013 Rising Sun High School graduate who played varsity basketball and soccer, inside the courtroom moments after Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Jane Cairns Murray imposed a 10-year sentence on Hook and then suspended eight years of it. Hook had been free since November on a $15,000 bond.
The judge ordered Hook to serve five years of supervised probation, which will start when he is released from the Cecil County Detention Center to begin the home confinement portion of his sentence.
Murray also ordered Hook to register as a convicted sex offender for the next 25 years and to submit a DNA sample to authorities. In addition, at the discretion of probation officers, the judge informed Hook that he could be subject to GPS monitoring and random polygraph tests. The judge forbade Hook from having unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 16.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kevin B. Urick had sought 18 months of jail incarceration, specifically requesting a 10-year sentence will eight and a half years suspended.
“Her innocence has been lost. It has been stolen,” Urick said, referring to the victim, who was 8 when Hook forced her to perform oral sex on him inside his home on May 30, 2012, about three months after he turned 17.
According to information released during Tuesday’s sentencing, the girl can recall five incidents in which Hook forced her to engage in sexual acts with him and then threatened harm if she told anyone, court records show.
Acting on a complaint from the victim’s parent, who notified authorities after learning about the molestation, Cecil County Sheriff’s Office detectives launched an investigation, which, in turn, led to a Cecil County grand jury handing up a seven-count indictment against Hook in November, according to court records.
(A minor who is older than 16 can be charged as an adult if he or she is accused of committing certain types of serious crimes, such as the ones in this case.)
The victim came forward because she feared Hook would prey on her younger sister at some point, according to her mother, who looked directly at Hook as she read her victim impact statement.
“She is a hero, saving her sister from the same abuse,” the mother said.
The mother recalled how close the Hook family was to her family. She remembered how Hook was a frequent visitor at their home, where he often hung out and ate meals with her family. The mother also recalled how her family would attend his sporting events and root for him.
“Connor, you preyed on an innocent child. You took away her innocence,” the mother remarked, noting that his offenses were almost “incestuous,” given Hook’s standing in their family.
The mother said her daughter has required counseling, although she appears to be coping well and, for example, still consistently makes the honor roll. In addition, the mother told the judge that she must deal with her own rage, guilt and depression and that she now second-guesses her parental instincts.
The victim’s father told the judge that nothing else mattered amid the criminal proceeding but his victimized child.
“It’s not my job to punish Connor or the Hook family. It’s not about me. It’s about my daughter,” the father said.
When the subject of requiring Hook to pay $4,000 in restitution to cover the family’s medical expenses was broached, the father expressed his opposition to pursuing the matter by saying, “We have insurance.”
To illustrate the lingering effects on his daughter, he recalled how, just a few hours earlier Tuesday morning, she got dressed for a summer camp, which is where the girl was when Hook’s sentencing took place. She had pulled the drawstring on her shorts so tightly that it left a “mark on her belly,” the father explained.
“She said, ‘I don’t like (to wear) anything loose. I don’t like anyone to be able to pull them down,” the father said.
Hook, who had entered an Alford plea to sexual solicitation in April as part of a plea deal, addressed the judge before sentencing. (In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors possess enough evidence to convict him at trial.)
“I take full responsibility for what I did. She didn’t do anything wrong. It was all my fault. It was my selfish act. I took away your daughter’s innocence. I abused your trust,” said Hook, standing with his back to the defense table so he could look at the victim’s parents seated in a courtroom pew.
Hook, who wept at times, told the parents that he was apologizing for what he did to their daughter and for what adverse impact it might have on her “future relationships and her self-esteem.”
He told them that his life has been a “living hell” since information regarding his molestation case became public, spurring a backlash that has made him a pariah. Hook said he has lost his appetite, weight, sleep, focus and all but a few friends. Hook has even lost his desire to live, at times, he said.
“I’m scared to go outside,” Hook said, explaining that he has endured torment from people online and in person.
His defense lawyer, Warren S. Alperstein of Baltimore, asked the judge to spare Hook incarceration and instead sentence him to a long probation. Alperstein reported Hook already has been involved in extensive psycho-sexual counseling, including 30 individual sessions and 20 group sessions.
Alperstein reported that Hook has battled suicidal tendencies because, in part, he has had to endure the “humiliation and embarrassment” caused by public reaction to his molestation case. Hook has been the target of hateful comments and online postings, including, “You should kill yourself,” “You should go to hell,” and “Rapist and child molester,” Alperstein reported.