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Judge sentences final defendant in prom rape case

BRAINERD, Minn. -- It's been nearly three years since two girls were raped following the Brainerd High School prom on April 26, 2014.

Ryan Mark Hall, 21, Brainerd, was sentenced Friday in Crow Wing County District Court for his crimes against one of the girls that night.

In his plea agreement, Hall pleaded guilty to two of five counts he was charged with in April 2014—felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim who was helpless and felony interfering with the privacy of a minor under age 18. The other three felonies—felony third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim who was helpless, gross misdemeanor fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim who did not give sexual consent and felony of using minors in sexual performance/pornographic work—were dismissed.

Prior to Judge Earl Maus handing down Hall's sentence, the girl's parents read victim impact statements aloud in court. The girl's mother said she wasn't sure justice was being served by Hall's sentence.

"On one hand, I'm relieved that we can put this behind us," she said. "But on another hand, your sentence isn't something that will haunt you in the way that your actions will haunt us for the rest of our lives."

Hall and one other man, Travis Michael Thelen, 21, Nisswa, both pleaded guilty and have now been sentenced to felony charges related to the April 2014 incident. Following the events of that night, Hall and Thelen exchanged text messages about the events. Those texts made the girl's mother sick, she said.

"Reading the text messages between you and Thelen about the rape, make me physically sick," she said. "The callous unthinkable things you did to my daughter, they are pure evil. She will never be the same, and neither will I."

The last two years have been difficult, because of how Hall denied what happened the night of the crime, the girl's mother said.

"Throughout these last two years, you denied and lied about your actions. You degraded my daughter in the community with your untruths to others," she said. "You raped my daughter and lied about it, vilifying us to others who in turn bullied us—do we deserve this? It is all because you thought you were entitled to violate my daughter. Your repeated lies only further disrespect us. Really, is this who you are? My daughter did not deserve to be raped, and we do not deserve to be bullied by anyone."

Hall's sentencing brings closure and allows the girl and her family a chance to heal, recover, survive and help other victims, the girl's mother said. She hopes one day Hall can come to accept responsibility for his actions, she said.

"Maybe one day you will have a daughter, and can more fully understand the gravity of what you did—not just that night but also the subsequent times when you promoted the degrading and bullying of us with your lies," she said. "And then, you will realize that you were a parent's nightmare and truly have remorse for your vile behavior."

Prior to April 2014, the girl who Hall raped was outgoing and loving, her father said.

"She was very excited to be in a new school, meeting a ton of new friends, and going to her first prom," he said. "After that day she became withdrawn and not so outgoing anymore. She lost a lot of friends and gained a lot of enemies."

People turned on the girl, her father said, spreading her name on social media and saying negative things about her. The family almost got a restraining order, he said, but was able to resolve the situation thanks to help from law enforcement and the Crow Wing County court system.

"(Her) name and picture were all over social media, bashing her saying that she lied and/or deserved what happened to her," he said. "She was called a slut, whore, and worse. All thanks to your actions, Ryan. I know you are not taking any responsibility for this, but do you honestly think it's OK to do what you did?"

The girl has since had to leave her high school campus to finish her high school education, her father said. She has received treatment and has twice attempted suicide, he said.

"She keeps to herself, and doesn't let anyone in," he said. "I lost a good part of my daughter that day that we will never get back. Being her dad it hurts me to see my daughter go through something like this, and that I can't help or take away the pain. I keep trying, but the wounds are too deep and she won't let me in anymore."

Hall will be able to serve his sentence and move on with his life, the girl's father said, something the girl and her family won't be able to do.

"It doesn't change the fact that you made a huge mistake that night that (she) and our family will be paying for, for the rest of our lives, and that you will serve your sentence and be able to move on with your life as if nothing ever happened," he said. "I hope that you will think of that as you grow up and have a family of your own."

While the victim impact statements were read and throughout the whole half-hour-long sentencing hearing, Hall stood facing the judge in a gray sweater and khakis. He didn't visibly react to the victim impact statements. Before Maus announced Hall's sentence, he asked Hall if he had anything to say. Hall replied he did not.

Hall received a stay of adjudication on both the charges he pleaded guilty to—felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim who was helpless and felony interfering with the privacy of a minor under age 18. Hall's attorney was public defender Gregory Brooks Davis.

The felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. The stay of adjudication means Hall will instead be on supervised probation for up to five years and will be required to comply with the conditions imposed by the court.

Maus went over the conditions of Hall's release and ruled Hall would be required to complete 120 hours of community service and to abide by all the recommendations in the assessments on alcohol and internet use. He said Hall would not use any alcohol or intoxicants, unless prescribed.

Rocky Wells, with the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office who prosecuted the case, requested Hall follow the recommendations from the psycho-sexual evaluation that was done. Hall must also comply with chemical use assessments because of alcohol's involvement in the assaults. Maus questioned whether Hall would be in court Friday if he had not drank alcohol the night of the incident.

Hall is restricted from viewing pornography or using the internet, using alcohol and other intoxicants and firearms. If the stay of adjudication is revoked, Hall will not be able to use firearms for the rest of his life. Hall cannot have any contact with the victims or go near their residences or places of employment.

The probation period for the felony fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charge calls for five years probation and the felony interfering with the privacy of a minor under age 18 calls for two years of probation. If Hall complies with all the conditions during the first two years of his probation, he has the option to petition the court to reduce the remaining three years of probation.

"But there's no guarantees," Maus said.

After going over the conditions of Hall's probation, Maus remarked how Hall's sentencing was the last of those associated with the prom night rape case. A lot of pain has occurred, Maus said, and he's hopeful the victims and their families can now move forward. He also addressed Hall one last time.

"Mr. Hall, it's never too late to turn things around," Maus said.

Following the hearing, the girl's mother said she was glad the process was over and asked people to pray for the victims involved. She also commended the court system and the county attorneys for their work on the case.

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