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Trial to decide if 'sexually dangerous' man should be released from prison

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 1:49 p.m. CDT
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James Walls, a former Sycamore man behind bars for about a decade as a sexually dangerous person, is standing trial this week to see if he presents a danger to the public as a pedophile.

SYCAMORE – A 55-year-old former Sycamore man who authorities said sexually abused two preteen girls is standing trial this week to determine if he should be released from a prison for sexually dangerous people.

James Walls has been in a secured facility for about 11 years after allegations surfaced in 1998 that he had sexually abused a female family member from the time she was 4 to 11 or 12. He had been convicted in 1993 of sexually abusing a 10-year-old girl who was not a family member, but Walls was committed as a sexually dangerous person rather than facing criminal charges in the later case.

Now, jurors will be asked to determine if Walls is a pedophile who has abused girls in the past and who likely will abuse more children if released from a secure facility. Prosecutors from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office have to prove their case by clear and convincing evidence, which is a lighter burden than that used in criminal cases.

If jurors find Walls no longer is sexually dangerous, a judge will determine during later proceedings which conditions, such as continued therapy and electronic monitoring, will be part of his release. Attorneys are expected to present their closing arguments today so jurors can begin deliberations.

During opening statements Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Joelle Marasco detailed the abuse against the two girls. One awoke at a sleepover at Walls’ house to find his penis in her hand in 1992, Marasco said. The other girl reported when she was 16 that Walls forced her to perform oral sex multiple times over several years up until she was 11 or 12, Marasco said.

Walls also videotaped encounters with the second girl, one of which another family member reported seeing, Marasco said.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Jack Slingerland emphasized that Walls denied the abuse. Slingerland challenged the effectiveness of the sexually dangerous person program and stressed that authorities wouldn’t recommend releasing someone who denies the offenses against him.

In opening statements Tuesday, Slingerland told jurors they needed to think about the danger, if any, that Walls presented today.

“The only thing he’s been convicted of happened 20 years ago,” Slingerland said.

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