June 18, 2018
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Judge reaffirms Union sex offender’s sentence

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 25-year-old Union man will be on supervised release for up to 30 years after he is released from prison in about seven years.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm reaffirmed the sentence imposed nearly two years ago on Benjamin S. Cook, who was convicted of 13 counts of sexually abusing three young children over a period of several years.

The original sentence imposed on Cook by Hjelm in August 2010 was vacated by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in regard only to the 30-year supervised release portion. The state high court stated that the supervised release needs to be focused on rehabilitation and not punishment.

Cook had appealed the length of the supervised release. During a court hearing Tuesday in Knox County Superior Court, Cook’s attorney Jeremy Pratt asked that Cook’s supervised release after prison be limited to 10 years.

Pratt said assessments done on Cook showed he presented a low to moderate risk of committing more offenses. The defense attorney cited Cook’s youth as another reason not to place him under such supervision for 30 years.

District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau argued, however, that the 30 years of supervised release was reasonable considering the long period that Cook committed the offenses, the number of offenses that occurred, his relationship to the victims, and his lack of insight as to why he committed the offenses.

“Virtually every child in his realm was abused,” Rushlau said.

An examination of Cook found he had psychopathic characteristics and a grandiose sense of himself. The prosecutor also noted that Cook used threats of violence in an attempt to silence the victims, saying he would kill them in their sleep with a knife if they tried to report his actions.

In statements to police, Cook said he was abused when he was younger, knew what he was doing was wrong but could not stop, and blamed his behavior on overactive hormones.

Justice Hjelm elaborated on the reasons for imposing the 30-year supervised release portion of the sentence. He said the supervised release period was appropriate and that it would be motivation for Cook to meet his responsibilities while on release.

The high court noted this was the first case it had reviewed after enactment of a state law in 2010 that allows for such a lengthy period of supervised release. The court stated that sentencing courts need to better explain the reasons for such supervised releases.

Under the state law, Cook can be sent back to prison if he violates terms of his supervised release anytime during the 30 years.

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