EVANSTON — An Evanston man has been sentenced to 2-1/2 to 7 years in prison after changing his plea to no contest in a case involving sexual activity with three different victims who were minors at the time. In Third District Court on Tuesday, Jan. 28, Rodney William “Bill” Blakeman pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree sexual assault and one count of taking immodest, immoral or indecent liberties with a child. The change of plea was the result of a plea agreement with the Uinta County Attorney’s office.
Blakeman was initially charged in October 2019 with four counts of second-degree sexual assault along with the immodest, immoral or indecent liberty charge following an investigation by Evanston Police Department Detective Jake Williams into reports made by victims concerning incidents that occurred more than two decades ago between 1996 and 1999. All five charges were felonies and convictions could have resulted in up to 90 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.
The victims — all now adults — included Blakeman’s family members as well as the child of one of Blakeman’s former friends. At the time of the assaults, the girls ranged in age from 6 to 17.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Uinta County Deputy Attorney Nathan Shumway spoke in favor of the plea agreement, noting the challenges of taking the case to trial because of the length of time that has passed since the crimes occurred and the resulting lack of physical evidence. Shumway referenced Blakeman’s criminal history, including property and traffic crimes and drug violations. Shumway said the sentence would serve as general deterrence because it would send the message that sexual assault crimes committed years ago can still result in prison sentences because Wyoming has no statute of limitations on such crimes.
Two of the victims spoke in the courtroom, including a woman who was 6 years old at the time of the assault. She described being a terrified child who lacked the capacity to understand what was happening to her. The woman said the assault had a profound impact on her life, leaving her struggling with chronic depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
She said, “I have lived in a prison of trauma and shame” in the more than two decades since that time.
The other victim said she remembers every detail of the assault, including how Blakeman’s breath smelled.
Judge Joseph Bluemel accepted the plea agreement and addressed the victims in the courtroom. He said he wants people to understand that in this instance, like many others, the phrase “delayed reporting” doesn’t necessarily mean the victims didn’t report the assaults to anyone. In fact, in this case reports were made to family members, friends and even law enforcement, though those reports didn’t result in justice for the victims until now.
In accepting the agreement, Bluemel stressed the importance of having the certainty of a conviction and finality for the victims, which can help in the healing process. “You deserve that,” Bluemel said to the victims.
Blakeman was sentenced to 2-1/2 to 7 years of incarceration for each of the three counts, to run concurrently with one another. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.