How often is it said that a recently-sentenced defendant, especially one who has been convicted of crimes against children, deserved “more than he got”?

Usually, sentences that seem too light to us — the “general public” — are the result of plea deals in cases that weren’t necessarily strong to start with; cases in which state prosecutors felt it in their best interest to obtain a somewhat lesser sentence rather than take their chances at trial and risk an acquittal that would allow the defendant to walk free. That isn’t offered as a criticism of any case in Scott County’s recent or distant past; rather, it’s an observation that each case must be weighed on its individual merit, and we — again, the “general public” — usually aren’t privileged to the specific details. At the end of the day, sentences that seem too light are almost always the fault of no specific individual (not always; see the newly-revived criticism of a secret plea deal made between federal prosecutors and Jeffrey Epstein in Florida), but the result of an imperfect justice system.

Monday’s sentencing of convicted sex offender Christopher Cox was an exception to that rule.

Cox, convicted in April of raping and sexually abusing a young girl — under the age of 13 — on more than 80 occasions over a period of years, was sentenced by Judge Shayne Sexton to 60 years in prison: the maximum allowed under state law for the 83 charges of which he was convicted.

If Sexton had ordered Cox’s sentences served concurrently, he could have served as little as 25 years in prison; state law permits no less than that for someone convicted of raping a child. Instead, Sexton went for the max. And because state law does not allow early release for convicts whose crimes included raping a child or aggravated sexual battery (among others), Cox has no prospect of parole. Even with credit for time served, he would be well into his 90s before he’s a free man.

And that’s just on the first round of charges, involving one victim. Cox must still stand trial on other charges, involving three other victims — each of whom was also under the age of 13 at the time the alleged abuse occurred. The next trial is slated for March 2020.

The bottom line: It’s unlikely that Cox will ever again walk the streets as a free man. And that’s as it should be. The allegations against him were shocking: according to authorities, Cox systematically and continuously abused the young girls for years before one was finally brave enough to tell someone. These were young girls in his care. He abused them under the guise of having fun — playing childhood games and riding ATVs. He even abused one of them inside Walmart.

Following two days of testimony presented by assistant district attorneys Jordan Howanitz and Lindsey C. Cadle, jurors needed just 50 minutes to decide Cox’s fate. And that fate was one that will likely keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

In this case, at least, there’s no need to wonder whether “the system” got it right, because the system took a convicted child predator off the streets for what would seem to be the rest of his life.

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