A Battle Creek man convicted of a rape that occurred 15 years ago was sentenced Friday to serve at least 78 years in prison.

Jeffrey Wimberly, 34, told Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge Sarah Lincoln he was innocent before she sentenced him to two consecutive terms of 39 to 60 years in prison.

Wimberly was convicted by a jury in December after six days of trial on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct after a woman said she was raped May 25, 2002, in a car by Wimberly. He was 19 at the time and she was 17. He was found not guilty on two other counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct from the same incident.

A second man, Larry Martin, Jr., Wimberly's cousin and who was 15 at the time, is awaiting trial on charges he assisted Wimberly.

The charges were brought last year as part of the Calhoun County Sexual Assault Kit investigation by the office of Michigan Attorney Bill Schutte.

Before he was sentenced, Wimberly told Judge Lincoln, "I stand in this courtroom before you, the public, and God, innocent but unjustly convicted, labeled and made to register as a rapist."

Wimberly blamed Special Assistant Attorney General Michelle Richardson, who he said was prosecuting to advance her career, defense attorney Ronald Pichlik, who Wimberly said was ineffective and the victim, who he accused of lying.

"My innocence did not matter and the truth did not matter," Wimberly said. "This is unjust. We never had sex in the car, she was never raped. She is heartless and evil and she should be standing here where I am today answering for what she has done."

The woman testified at the trial that she knew Wimberly from school and they met because she offered to sell him a gun. She told the jury she was in the car with Wimberly and Martin after they said they had to get money for the gun.

She said they drove a couple of blocks and then Martin stopped and Wimberly came over the seat and assaulted her multiple times in the back while Martin held her arms.

She told the jury she begged Wimberly to stop and he told her he would kill her before she was able to escape from the car.

The victim, whose name is not used by the Enquirer because she is a victim of sexual assault, did not attend the sentencing hearing. In a statement read by Richardson, the woman said after the assault she stopped attending school and didn't leave her house.

"I don't trust very many people and I don't make friends," she wrote. "Even when I think people are trying to help me I think they might hurt me.

"I don't understand how someone can do this to someone else," she wrote. "It makes me think the worst about people."

After investigators matched DNA from Wimberly to evidence in the rape kit, Richardson said the woman told her the wounds were opened by the new investigation and court proceedings.

"She is now back where she was many years ago," Richardson said. "Her entire family is living in hell all over again."

Richardson said Wimberly continues to blame everyone else.

"He likes to revise history to reflect him as a victim," Richardson told the court. "The defendant is not the victim in this case. I believe the defendant to be a dangerous man not only to this victim but to the community."

She called for a long prison sentence for him and "to send a message to other people who think it is appropriate to rape and take away the souls of young people in the community."

Lincoln told Wimberley that the victim deserves great credit for her testimony and said because of several prior felonies and for the rape conviction "you deserve to be in prison for a very long time.

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