Trial Scene

Ronny Scoggin (right) with defense lawyer Stephanie Farkas on May 29 during his trial. - photo by Don Campbell

ST. JOSEPH — A Three Oaks man who raped a young girl is likely to spend his remaining years in pris­on.

It took a Berrien County jury just under 30 minutes on Thursday, May 30, to find Ronny Scoggin, 71, guilty of six counts of first-degree crimi­nal sexual conduct. The maximum sentence is any number of years up to life.

Because the victim was under the age of 13, the manda­tory mini­mum is 25 years, mean­ing Scoggin would be 96 when first eligi­ble for parole. Also, he has a prior CSC conviction in Ber­rien County so his sentence can be enhanced.

Throughout the trial in Judge Gordon Hosbein’s courtroom, the jury heard from the girl, now 10, about how Scoggin had molested her on several occasions and in various ways when she was 6 and 7.

Near the end of the pros­ecution’s case Thursday, Berrien Assistant Prosecutor Cortney O’Malley called to the witness stand four adults who told the jury they were sexually assaulted by Scog­gin when they were children. The defense called no wit­nesses.

It was Oct. 23, 2016, when Virginia Scoggin, the defen­dant’s wife, walked into their motor home that was parked in their driveway and found her husband with his pants down and the girl, a frequent visitor to the house, with her pants and underwear around her ankles.

“She told you what hap­pened on Oct. 23, 2016,” O’Malley said to the jury in her closing argument. “It was not the first time, but it was the last time.”

The girl, who testified ear­lier in the week, told the jury she did not tell anyone about the incidents because she was afraid of Scoggin and did not want him to hurt any other children.

O’Malley told the jury that Scoggin stole the girl’s childhood and innocence.

“He has done this before. This is what he does. He sex­ually assaults kids that are available to him,” she said.

Scoggin’s lawyer, Stepha­nie Farkas, told the jury in her closing argument that the prosecutor had present­ed no physical evidence to support that anything hap­pened between Scoggin and the young girl.

“(The girl) was not cred­ible and not reliable. There were numerous inconsisten­cies and she said a lot of ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I don’t re­member.’ Her inconsisten­cies started early on,” Farkas said.

It’s been a long road for Scoggin’s family and the young victim and her fam­ily. He was arrested Nov. 3, 2016, and in July 2017 before going on trial he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sex­ual conduct, and five counts were dismissed. A plea deal with prosecutors included a sentencing agreement that Scoggin would serve a mini­mum of 18 years. He would have been 87 when first eli­gible for parole.

At sentencing by Judge Arthur Cotter in 2017, Scog­gin apologized to the victim and his wife for what he had put them through. But in 2018, he took advantage of a mistake by Cotter and with­drew his guilty plea. He said the judge had never stated on the record that Scoggin, if ever released from prison, would be subject to lifetime tether monitoring. Cotter re­viewed the court transcripts and said that although Scog­gin’s lawyer at the time knew about the requirement, it was true that it had not been put on the record at the time of sentencing.

Cotter said it pained him greatly, but he had no choice but to grant Scoggin’s motion to withdraw his plea.

“I feel like justice has finally been served and (the victim) and I can both be happy he won’t be able to do this to anyone else,” Virginia Scoggin said after the verdict Thursday.

Scoggin has been in the Berrien County jail on $500,000 bond. Hosbein revoked bond and set sentencing for 1:30 p.m. July 22.

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