Fmr. commissioner sentenced; victim calls Rolls a coward

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Ex Kent County Commissioner Gary Rolls showed no emotion today as his sexual assault victim lambasted him as a coward and the judge called Rolls a sexual predator who "stopped at nothing to destroy evidence.''

Despite pleas for leniency from his attorney, Rolls today was sentenced to a year in the Kent County Jail and five years' probation for sexually assaulting a former Rockford neighbor starting when she was in grade school. Rolls did not address the victim or the court prior to sentencing.

The victim, now 29, read a lengthy impact statement in Kent County Circuit Court, where Rolls appeared in handcuffs and an orange jail jumpsuit. He stood against a courtroom wall looking down as the woman talked.

"I was a shy child full of love and he took that from me,'' the young woman told a packed courtroom. "He treated me like a slave . . . my mind never has a chance to escape those thoughts.''

RELATED: Ex-commissioner Gary Rolls pleads guilty in sex case

Rolls, 48, used intimidation and threats to sustain a sexual relationship that started when the victim was about 10 years old. It continued until she reported the abuse to Michigan State Police two years ago.

Ionia County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Lori Kirkhoff lambasted the disgraced former Kent County commissioner for his lack of remorse and disregard for "the highest of ethical standards'' expected from elected officials.

After police launched their investigation, Rolls – still a commissioner representing the Rockford area, remotely erased information from his iPad that was the subject of a search warrant.

The loss of that evidence hampered investigators, said Kirkhoff, who handled the prosecution because of Rolls' ties with Kent County government officials.

Rolls "is full of excuses as to why he committed this crime,'' Kirkhoff told the court. "He blamed the victim instead of showing remorse for what he did to her.''

Rolls on May 13 pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, using a computer to commit a crime and an amended charge of criminal sexual conduct, fourth degree. In exchange for his plea, the more serious charges of first degree criminal sexual conduct were dropped.

Judge Dennis Leiber told Rolls he was being sentenced not as a public figure but as a "sexual predator who stopped at nothing to destroy evidence,'' referring to the remote erase function used on Rolls' iPad.

Defense attorney Jeffrey O'Hara, in the middle of a tight race for a 63rd District Court judgeship, noted the gallery was packed with Rolls' family and friends. Although sentencing guidelines called for a term of up to 17 months in prison, O'Hara asked that his client serve no time.

"He will be surrounded by a support group that will hold him accountable,'' O'Hara said.

Rolls was given credit for 40 days he's already served in the Kent County Jail. In addition to jail and probation, Leiber ordered Rolls to pay $2,734 in fines and court costs.

Rolls originally faced four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct starting in July, 1994. Had he been convicted of the more serious charges, Rolls would have faced up to life in prison.

The criminal investigation began in October, 2012 when the victim contacted police and said Rolls was harassing her. Over the course of the next year, investigators pieced together a disturbing pattern of sexual abuse that began when she was in grade school. The victim has since moved to Muskegon County.

Rolls obtained a credit card in both their names between 2000 and 2004 in order to pay for hotel rooms and used his credit card to buy gifts for the victim.

"Many of these gifts of jewelry were enticements to prevent her from revealing the sexual abuse,'' a state police detective wrote in a search warrant affidavit. "Rolls took the victim on a trip to Florida in February, 2004 without his wife's knowledge and paid for the airplane tickets with a credit card.''

The woman told investigators Rolls started taking nude photos of her about the time she turned 15 years old. Images were taken using a video camera, digital camera and his cell phone. Rolls kept photos in a safe in his house and on his computer; the woman told state police investigators.

Police got a search warrant for Rolls home and his iPad after Rolls' wife, Dawn, reported that "Gary told her he had set up the remote erase'' on his iPad, according to court documents.


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