Insisting that he was wrongfully convicted, a Whidbey Island man convicted of child rape remained defiant at his sentencing hearing Thursday.
Jonathan Sage, 33, gave a long, rambling speech in Island County Superior Court that blamed investigators, a prosecutor, the judge and jury for an outcome he described as unjust, but he also delved into his grievances at the county jail and a short-lived hunger strike.
A half dozen people either wrote letters or spoke in support of Sage — including the mother of his two victims. The victims’ mother said in court that she fell deeply in love with him and will stand by him, even though the stance has made her “extremely unpopular” with a lot of people.
Sage’s attorney immediately filed a notice of intent to appeal after the sentencing.
Judge Alan Hancock, however, said Sage received “an eminently fair trial” and committed acts that were “very serious and reprehensible.”
Hancock handed Sage an exceptional sentence of 35 years to life in prison. He also responded to the victims’ mother and others who professed Sage’s innocence.
“They did not sit through the trial in this case,” he said.
“I’ll leave it at that.”
Sage raped two brothers at various locations on South Whidbey when they were roughly 12 to 15 years old.
A jury convicted Sage of four counts of child rape in the second degree in April. The jury also found that there were “aggravating factors” with some or all of the charges, which allowed the judge to hand down an exceptional sentence beyond the standard range.
Specifically, the jury found that the crimes were part of an ongoing pattern of sexual abuse against the same underaged victims; that he used a position of trust to facilitate the crimes; and that he established a relationship with one of the victims for the purpose of victimization.
Chief Criminal Prosecutor Eric Ohme recommended that Sage receive an exceptional sentence of more than 46 years in prison.
“The defendant stole the victims’ youth and he stole their innocence,” he said.
Ohme read a statement written by one of the victims, who said he forgives Sage but worries that he would abuse other children if ever released.
“You could have just been the guy who helped out a single mom and her two children,” he said, “but you chose to hurt those two children instead.”
The victims’ stepmother addressed the court and chastised Sage for not coming clean about what he did.
“You are a master manipulator,” she said, “and I hope you never see the light of day to do this to another child.”
In presenting his recommendation, Ohme summarized the facts of the case. The boys had a difficult life after their parents broke up and their mother descended into substance abuse; Ohme said she was “in a daze or passed out most of the time” and their father was “a weekend dad.”
Sage befriended their mother and they ended up living together off and on; one of the boys lived with Sage for a time.
Sage used his access to the boys to abuse them over and over again.
After the two boys disclosed the sexual abuse to their father, Sage asked the man not to tell police, saying that a lot of people would lose their jobs. At the time, Sage owned a company called Northwest Public Relations, which created promotional videos for a number of businesses and nonprofit organizations, mostly on South Whidbey.
Sage also told the boys’ father that it was normal for thousands of years for men to have sex with children.
Ohme was critical of the state Department of Correction’s pre-sentence investigation, which is supposed to provide informative about Sage and a sentence recommendation. He said the corrections officer erroneously reported that the prosecution didn’t furnish the information about the aggravating factors and also recommended a community custody period that is contrary to law.
At the beginning of the hearing, both Sage and his attorney, Cassandra Lopez de Arriaga, asked to have sentencing delayed for two weeks in order to give Sage time to properly prepare a statement.
Hancock, however, denied the request, noting that Sage has had nearly a month since his conviction.
Nonetheless, Sage retrieved paperwork from his cell and read a lengthy statement. He said that he still cares for the boys who he helped raise and didn’t understand why they would accuse him of the crimes.
“All I really know for sure is I didn’t rape those boys,” he said.
Sage also said Thursday that the jury convicted him not because of the facts, but because of strong emotions associated with the crimes. He said investigators didn’t do a good job, the judge showed bias and that Ohme should be fired. He also complained about problems he said he had in the jail, which caused him to go on a brief hunger strike.
The boys’ mother also spoke at length, arguing that Sage is a good person and completely innocent.
The mother said the allegations against Sage were made in the heat of a “contentious custody battle” between her and her ex-husband. She claimed her ex-husband and his wife “brainwashed, coerced or manipulated” the boys into making the false allegations.
The boys’ mother said she’s “lost virtually everyone” as a result of her support of the man convicted of raping her children.
Sage’s sentence is indeterminate, which means he will serve the minimum of 35 years, after which a Department of Corrections sentencing review board will decide whether he should be released.
Sage could be held in prison for the rest of his life.