Edwardsburg resident receives 20 to 40 years for abuse of minor

CASSOPOLIS — A man whose victim said that he “took a huge chunk of [her] life” has been sentenced to a lengthy prison stay.

Friday morning, Cass County Circuit Court Judge Mark Herman sentenced Danny Edward Graham, 60, of the 17000 block of US-12 in Edwardsburg, to 20 to 40 years in prison for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Graham is also subject to mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring.

Graham pleaded guilty to the charges during a court appearance on Jan. 16.

Danny Edward Graham

The charges stem from events that took place between 2009 and 2017 in Cass County. According the presentence investigation report, Graham performed sexual acts on a minor acquaintance of his for a number of years. He reportedly threatened the victim, which led her to fear reporting Graham for the abuse.

Prior to these incidents, Graham had been previously convicted of requesting sexual acts from a young child, though that conviction has since been expunged from his record.

The victim made a statement at the sentencing hearing. She said the abuse, which began when she was between 12 and 13 years of age, still leaves her with nightmares.

“Your honor, this has not been a one-time thing,” the victim said, her voice cracking as tears filled her eyes. “This has been happening for years.”

Though the victim said that testifying and speaking before the court has been difficult and stressful for her, she said that she wanted to ensure that Graham remained behind bars so that he would not be able to hurt any other children like herself.

“Once I finally got the courage to speak up, I realized I was helping everyone else that [Graham] could hurt,” the victim said. “I want to make sure that nobody else went through what I went through, the torture of dealing with this man. It continually takes a lot of bravery and courage to keep my head held high. I want to be brave enough for the people behind me, so they will be brave.”

Prosecutor Tiffiny Vohwinkle said that the victim’s testimony was so powerful there was not much more Vohwinkle could add. Though the court recommendation, based on negotiations with the prosecutor, was for Graham to serve 9 to 15 years in prison, Vohwinkle asked the judge to sentence him to at least 20 years in prison due to the nature of the crimes committed.

“He took away what should have been a safe place for her and created a hell,” Vohwinkle said. “And it isn’t just [the victim] that he has done this to. … He needs prison. We need to protect our most vulnerable in society.”

Given Graham’s past history with sexual abuse, Judge Herman agreed with Vohwinkle, sentencing Graham at the top of the guidelines for the crime committed, with credit for 184 days already served.

At one point during the presentence investigation, Graham contended that the relationship between him and the victim was consensual and said “she is not as innocent as she lets on.”

Herman responded to this statement as he sentenced Graham.

“Of course, she is not [innocent],” Herman said. “She should be. She is at a time her in life where she should be, but you have been molesting her since she was approximately 12 years old. You took that from her. … I think it is you, [Graham], that is not as innocent as you let on.”

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