A Longview man was sentenced Thursday to a minimum of six years and 10 months in prison for molesting a five-year-old family member about two years ago.
“I believe if (the victim) never spoke up, Justin would still be abusing her to this day,” the victim’s mother told Cowlitz Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning during sentencing. “A man that can do these things ... can never be trusted around any other child ever again.”
Justin Lane, 35, pleaded guilty Sept. 17, the day he was scheduled to go to trial. In court Thursday, the victim’s grandmother thanked Lane for doing so and sparing the victim from having to testify. Confessing is the best thing he’s ever done for her, she told a reporter after the sentencing.
“She was scared to death,” the grandmother said in court. “She is the bravest, strongest little girl that I have ever met. She has shown our family and everybody around her that she is a survivor, and this will not define who she is.”
Warning sentenced Lane at the high end of his 62 to 82 month sentencing range. He also gave Lane a lifetime community custody sentence and signed a lifetime sexual assault protection order for the victim.
Lane was originally charged with one count of first-degree child rape, one count of attempted first-degree child rape, two counts of first-degree child molestation and bail jumping. He pleaded guilty to only a single charge of first-degree child molestation and bail jumping in his deal with prosecutors.
“My client did not particularly want to force this child to deal with this stuff any longer,” defense attorney Richard Suryan told Warning.
Longview police were alerted to the sexual abuse in late May 2018 by the victim’s mother. The victim told police that Lane sexually assaulted her on at least two occasions between September 2017 and early last year, according to police records. Officers arrested Lane on June 8, 2018, and he initially denied the allegations.
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In a search of his bedroom, officers found dozens of young girl’s panties, according to police records. Lane acknowledged that officers would likely find DNA from both him and the victim on some of that clothing.
After the sentencing, the girl’s grandmother said her anger toward Lane has diminished some, and she believes Lane has been a victim of sexual abuse himself.
In a pre-sentence investigation, a corrections officer wrote that Lane had maintained his innocence but pleaded guilty because the plea deal was the “best case” for him. He “refused to accept responsibility” for his behavior, the investigator found.
“It’s odd,” Warning told Lane. “The one thing you did that showed some sense of responsibility was the plea. And then when I read the (pre-sentence investigation), you turned right around.”
“I think that was a misunderstanding,” Lane replied. “I was reading it, and I think we came to a misunderstanding, the investigator and I. I just want to get help, and get everything taken care of, so that way I can go on and hopefully become a better person.”
Prosecuting attorney Jason Laurine told Warning that the case demonstrates how children can become victims of sexual abuse.
“Even when (the victim) was talking about the abuse that she suffered, she still said that she loved (Lane),” Laurine said. “And I think that’s one of the ways we all need to be cognizant of, how individuals like (Lane) predate against children. They use that love.”