By Deneen Smith
The father of a young sexual assault victim sat by the prosecutor’s side to make a victim statement at the sentencing of the 18-year-old convicted of the assault.
“You and I know each other, your honor,” he told Judge Bruce Schroeder. “I’ve been sentenced to prison by you.”
The father gestured to the defense table, where Gage Badgerow of Kenosha was awaiting his sentencing.
“There was a time when I sat in that chair, and I was angry at you, and angry at the system. But the system works,” he said.
The father, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for a theft case in 2008, said he has changed his life and now has a stable family life and stable employment.
He said his own experience made him feel that Badgerow needs to be incarcerated.
“I have sat in prison with men who committed similar crimes. They seem to return to criminality,” the father said. “He raped more than one girl. He killed animals in their presence. This is a sick person. I understand he is young… but I think he needs prison time.”
Badgerow was charged in April with child enticement, false imprisonment, sexual assault of a child under 16, repeated sexual assault of a child and strangulation.
Through a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to reduced charges of third-degree sexual assault and strangulation, both felonies.
Two girls assaulted
According to the criminal complaint, the charges were related to assaults on two girls. Both girls told investigators they had. at times. had consensual sex with Badgerow, but that he also sexually assaulted them without consent.
He was 16 and a student at Bradford High School at the time of the latest of the incidents.
An investigation began in March 2019 after the parents of one of the girls went to police, saying their daughter revealed she had been assaulted. The second girl came forward when the investigation was underway.
Both girls also described to investigators that he abused and killed animals in front of them to intimidate them into doing his bidding.
In one case, he told a girl if she did not have sex with him he would kill a fish. When she said no, “the defendant then proceeded to kill that fish by beating it against a rock,” the complaint states.
According to statements in court, Badgerow admitted to the animal abuse.
The strangulation charge is related to an incident that occurred in 2016 when the second girl was 14 years old. She told investigators that without provocation Badgerow began choking her until she had trouble breathing, and would not stop until one of his friends pulled him off her.
Although Badgerow has no criminal history, the complaint notes that he was expelled from Bradford for a time for making a shooting threat.
‘Disagreement over facts’
Defense attorney Terry Rose said Badgerow “accepts responsibility, but there are disagreements over facts.”
He said he acknowledges that he committed sexual assault under the law because the girl was not of age to consent, but disputes he forced her to have sex.
“There was consent in fact, not consent in law,” he said.
He asked that Badgerow be sentenced to probation and no prison time. He has been in jail for seven months awaiting resolution of the case.
Badgerow told the judge, “I vow that I will show kindness and respect to every person that I meet under every circumstance forever and always.”
Schroeder said he was troubled by the case. “There are some really disturbing aspects to this,” he said.
Even if Badgerow’s argument that the sexual relationships were consensual is true, “more of concern is that he pled guilty to strangling this young girl. What purpose does a man have to put his hands around a woman’s neck … other than to kill her or put the fear into her that he is going to kill her?”
“And this business of killing animals, torturing animals when soliciting a girl for sexual favors,” Schroeder said. He said he has long understood “what a disturbing signal it is when a young person harms or tortures animals.”
Schroeder sentenced Badgerow to 30 months in prison followed by three years of extended supervision on the strangulation charge. He withheld sentence on the sexual assault charge, meaning that if Badgerow fails to follow the terms of his probation after release from prison he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for that charge.
“In spite of the defendant’s age, I do think prison is essential,” he said. “I’m hopeful that you will make good use of your time.”
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