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MN Supreme Court says remorse shouldn't shorten prison sentences

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A man convicted of sexually assaulting a friend will not have his sentenced reduced due to his remorse, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided in a ruling this week.

Jacob Miles Solberg was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in 2014. Under Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, Solberg's should have been imprisoned for 53 to 74 months.

However, he was only sentenced for 30 months, due to his remorse.

The state Court of Appeals reversed his sentencing. Solberg then petitioned for a review, arguing his remorse was the single factor and that was sufficient for a reduced sentence.

State law does allow for a shortened sentence based on one factor, but the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision that reversed Solberg's sentence.

“A defendant’s remorse generally does not bear on a decision to reduce the length of a sentence,” Justice Margaret Chutich wrote in the opinion.

The crime

According to the Supreme Court's opinion:

In early June 2013, Solberg told the victim, a friend, after a street dance that friends were coming to his house and she should join him.

She agreed, but when she arrived no one else was present.

After they started watching television, Solberg kept begging the victim to have sex with him even though she said no multiple times.

The victim asked Solberg to drive her back to her truck, but instead he pushed her back onto the couch, held her down and raped her.

Solberg told her “it’s OK” because “my doctor said I can’t have kids” and “undefinedt’s not cheating if [our significant others] don’t find out.”

Solberg later admitted he “might’ve pressured her into it” but thought she was playing “hard to get.”

The ruling

Solberg was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct and pleaded not guilty.

In his appeal, Solberg cited a psychosexual assessment which said Solberg "acknowledged experiencing feelings [of] guilt at a clinically significant level."

At the sentencing hearing Solberg also said: "I know what I've done was wrong and it's been on me every single day. If there was anything I could do to make it better, I would ... I just wish I could go back in time and change what happened."

The Court of Appeals expressed doubt that Solberg’s remorse was genuine, since he both claimed to having no memory of the offense due to alcohol as well as not entering a plea until the trial was well underway.

In her opinion, Chutich said even if his regret was genuine, the district court did not find that it made his conduct any less serious.

"A durational departure must be based on factors that reflect the seriousness of the offense, not the characteristics of the offender," Chutich said. "In other words, unless a defendant can show that his demonstrated remorse is directly related to the criminal conduct at issue and made that conduct significantly less serious than the typical conduct underlying the offense of conviction, remorse cannot justify a downward durational departure."

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