Hackel sentenced to 3-15 years in prison



Former Macomb County Sheriff William Hackel was sentenced to at least three years in prison Monday for his conviction on two rape charges.
A jury had found Hackel, 58, guilty of two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, involving oral penetration and forced sexual intercourse, on April 27 in Isabella County Circuit Court.
The maximum sentence for the felony charges is 15 years, but Hackel could be released after three years if officials feel he is rehabilitated by then.
"It doesn't matter who it is that comes before me," Chief Judge Paul Chamberlain said before sentencing. "I try to treat everyone with respect and dignity, irrespective of their position."
Hackel is guilty of raping a 26-year-old woman Oct. 11 in her hotel room at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, 6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd., during a Michigan Sheriff's Association fall conference. The woman is an association staff member. The trial began April 17 and closing statements were made April 26.
Hackel's lawyers, led by James Howarth of Detroit, had called for a sentence of 18 months. Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick asked the judge to stay within the sentencing guidelines, ranging from 29 to 57 months, and that the defense motion for bond pending appeal be denied.
Chamberlain denied bond, citing no clear and convincing proof that Hackel would not pose a danger to society. Howarth said he will start appealing both the bond denial and the jury's verdict in the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit as soon as possible.
Before sentencing, both Hackel and the victim spoke to Chamberlain. The victim said she had led a normal life before she was raped by Hackel.
"I don't sleep well. I'm lucky if I sleep at all. When I close my eyes I see the face of the man who took away a part of me, a part of my existence," she said.
She said she looks at other sheriffs differently today as well, and said when she talks about the rape she ends up reliving it.
"I can't just tear up this chapter of my life and throw it away. If anything, this man should be held to a higher standard than most. I too am sentenced for this man's actions."
Hackel had admitted he and the woman had sex, but testified during the trial that it was consensual.
He said he wanted to "apologize to everyone for my indiscretion and involvement for that one hour last October. My family has suffered a great deal of public humiliation."
Because the media made the Hackel's home address public, the Hackels are now attempting to sell their home, he said. Hackel said his wife Ada now lives in a small condominium waiting for her husband, who has been in the Isabella County Jail since his conviction.
"I've never felt so useless and unproductive in my entire life," he said.
Hackel had spent 24 of his 36 years in law enforcement as Macomb County's sheriff before his conviction, resigning after the verdict was heard. One of Hackel's sons, Mark Hackel, plans on running for his father's former position this fall.
"This is the first time in 58 years that I've not given my mother a hug on Mother's Day," Hackel said before sentencing. "My wife has forgiven me and we are still very much in love.
"Please do not waste my life by putting me behind bars for a long time."
Before sentencing, letters from family members were read to the court by defense co-council Joseph Barberi of Mount Pleasant. One was from Hackel's 76-year-old mother, Margaret Hackel. In the letter, she said she and her husband had watched the jury verdict on TV, and her husband had said "Not my son!"
Hackel covered his face and cried as his mother's letter was read.
The victim had said that the judge should consider other things in addition to the rape when creating a sentence.
After the rape, "Doctors and nurses examined my private parts, parts that had just been violated and that I wanted to cover up and hide," she said.
Barberi called Hackel's action on Oct. 11 "one blemish on an otherwise impeccable record." But Burdick said he disagreed with Barberi's belief that Hackel's position should be disregarded in creating his sentence.
"I would hope that police officers would hold themselves to a higher degree," he said.
Burdick also said Hackel's convictions "besmirch a profession of men and women who are the good guys.
"No matter how you dress it up, as an unfortunate or an embarrassing act, as a poor choice, as an act of indiscretion, it's a rape. It's the most violent act you can perpetrate against a person."
Chamberlain said the sentence enables rape victims to come forward and also tells officials who commit crimes that their wrongs will not be swept under the rug.
"The loss of your job and family is going to have a rehabilitative effect on you," he told Hackel. "I think this sentence is lenient yet respectful to the victim."
To the victim, Chamberlain said the sexual assault "isn't a chapter you can rip up and throw away but it is a chapter you can heal."
"There's a need for forgiveness, but there's also a need for atonement," Burdick said.
Howarth said he thought the judge made a very considered opinion in sentencing Hackel, but said Hackel is "sorry for his moral indiscretion, but he's not saying 'I'm sorry, I raped you.'"
After denying Hackel's bond, Chamberlain said there is grounds for an appeal of the trial. The defense has claimed that the victim and her mother saw a lawyer before the trial in hopes of suing Hackel for economic gain. The defense was not given the chance during the trial to question the victim's mother about any economic motives, he said.
Howarth said he will raise other aspects in his appeal, which he said could take up to three years to work through court. Meanwhile, Hackel may be transferred to the Jackson State Prison's processing center, where his place of incarceration will be determined.
Hackel's sentence also includes counseling, including sexual abuse counseling, and a $60 crime victims rights fee.


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