Child molester’s sentence stands, court rules

Earl Raff

A Clifton man convicted of sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl and her 11-year-old sister will serve out his two consecutive 23-year prison sentences, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Earl Dean Raff, 31, pleaded guilty in 2008 on two counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust after being charged on 20 counts of sexual assault as part of a pattern of abuse.

Raff’s court-appointed attorneys tried to argue in his latest appeal that his sentence, 23 years to life for sexual assault of each of the pre-teen girls, was contrary to the Colorado Legislature’s intent in sentencing goals, specifically in rehabilitation and protection of public safety.

But a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Mesa County District Judge Valerie Robison did not abuse her discretion in imposing the sentence, saying she properly weighed all the aggravating factors.

“A trial court has broad discretion when imposing a sentence, and its determination will not be overturned in the absence of a clear abuse of discretion,” Appellate Judge James Casebolt wrote in the ruling, which was joined by judges Nancy Lichtenstein and Robert Kapelke. “Only in exceptional cases will an appellate court substitute its judgment for that of the trial court in sentencing matters.”

In this case, the sentencing range for the class-3 sexual assault felonies Raff was convicted of carry a maximum sentence of 24 years to life.

Initially, Raff was sentenced to two consecutive 25-year sentences, but that term was tossed out by the Court of Appeals in 2010 as being too excessive. The following year, Robison resentenced him to the lesser sentence.

Raff, who currently is serving time in the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley, had the two children in his home in the 400 block of Bing Street when he assaulted them over a seven-month period, according to his arrest affidavit.

They were in the home with their mother, who is related to Raff’s wife.

According to the court ruling, Raff disclosed to the mother that he was a registered sex offender for having consensual sex with a younger girl. Actually, the details of his prior offense were that he was 16 at the time and the younger girl was a relative, the ruling said.

During sentencing, Robison ruled that there were extraordinary aggravating factors in the case, some of which came from written testimony from the mother and two girls, who said they were traumatized by the incident and no longer felt welcome in their church “because defendant’s family had spread untrue rumors” about the girls, the ruling says.

“The victims’ mother’s letter described changes in her family and in her children,” Casebold wrote. “She also told the court that the family had been shunned by their church community because of rumors that were allegedly spread by defendant’s family.”

Raff’s attorneys also tried to argue that the judge gave too much weight to what the victims experienced, saying it was not unique to other sex assault cases to warrant a harsher sentence.

The court disagreed, saying there’s no such thing as normal.

“(Robison) focused on defendant’s position of trust with respect to the victims in the context of his knowledge that he had previously sexually assaulted his (relative), but yet chose to allow the girls into his home,” the ruling said. “Thus, the principal aggravating factor is that defendant had a previous adjudication for sexual assault on a child, but still allowed himself to be placed in a position of trust.”

Raff won’t be eligible for parole until 2055.


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