ELDORA | Some members of the community have voiced their opinions about a plea deal for a 61-year-old Aldan man accused of sexually assaulting his 6-year-old granddaughter.
Dean Hilpipre, who was initially charged with two counts of felony second-degree sexual abuse, will likely be sentenced to probation on a lesser charge Friday at the Hardin County Courthouse. In Iowa law, sexual assault and rape are charged as "sexual abuse."
And some community members following the case are not happy about the proposed plea deal, which means Hilpipre would avoid prison time.
The Hardin County Attorney's office has received multiple letters and emails criticizing the deal, and most mention a common theme: that Hilpipre should be put in jail.
Hardin County Attorney Richard Dunn issued a statement in response to these letters, which stated Judge James McGlynn can still issue the maximum penalty "if he deems it appropriate."
"In some cases, the achievable resolution best for a situation does not feel fair," Dunn said in the statement. "Prosecuting child sexual assault often means making difficult decisions. The duty of a prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict, and we at the Hardin County Attorney’s Office seek to do justice every day with the utmost seriousness and commitment."
Still, several who wrote to Dunn's office were critical of the plea deal. The authors of those letters, many of whom said they knew the victim, have been redacted under an exemption in Iowa's open records law.
Assistant Hardin County Attorney Denise Patters wrote in an email that her office redacted the authors' names because the law states people would otherwise be discouraged from submitting letters, if they knew their names might be made public.
"Our office believes it is reasonable that members of the public may be discouraged from writing to share their opinions if we do not shield their identities from public examination," Patters said.
The office also redacted the victim's name from the letters, per Iowa law.
One letter, which was submitted on Feb. 12, criticized Dunn for his involvement in the plea deal, where Hilpipre pleaded guilty to lascivious acts with a child.
"How dare you offer a plea deal to a child molester?" that author wrote, later adding: "I bet you'd feel differently if it was your daughter or granddaughter that was molested by this monster."
Another author, who submitted a letter on Feb. 18, was concerned for the victim's future well-being.
"I find it unjust for the victim and her mental stability for the future ... The child and her family will suffer her entire life, and needs he (Hilpipre) to be held accountable for his actions."
One author stated Hilpipre's sentence was too lentient, given his or her own personal experience with sex abuse.
Much like Kasey Hilpipre — the victim's mother — the author believed Hilpipre is at risk of being a repeat sex offender.
"About 14 yrs (sic) ago I put my ex husband in prison for sexually abusing my daughter," that author wrote in a letter dated Feb. 20. "It was his second time in prison for this type of crime. I do not feel anyone who sexually abuses a child is able to rehabilitate."
Some letters were also submitted to Judge McGlynn, recommending that he not use the plea deal when sentencing Hilpipre.
One author indicated that he or she lives near Hilpipre, and believes he is a threat to the community.
"I do not feel safe with this man walking the streets," that author wrote in a message dated Feb. 15. "Please do what you can to make him pay for what he has done ... give this litte (little) girl justice. Please don't let him off with probation."
Hilpipre is scheduled to be sentenced 10 a.m. Friday at the Hardin County Courthouse.