VIROQUA, Wis. — A man charged along with three other family members with repeatedly sexually assaulting a girl as she grew up in the Amish community was sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Vernon County Circuit Judge Michael Rosborough sentenced Eli Byler, 24, of Viroqua to a 12-year term, although the last four years may be served as extended supervision instead of behind bars.
Byler pleaded guilty June 30 to one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child and one count of bail jumping. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop three counts of second-degree sexual assault by force.
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Charges were filed this spring after a 20-year-old woman told authorities she was sexually assaulted more than 200 times between the ages of 7 and 17 by family members while living in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Also charged were two of Byler’s brothers and his stepfather, whose cases are pending.
Byler could have faced a 30-year prison term.
The judge said he took into account a lack of parental supervision on the difference between right and wrong. Byler also expressed remorse.
The victim said later that Byler deserved to be punished for raping her and “stealing her childhood.”
She told La Crosse radio station WIZM she still lives in Wisconsin, but not where she formerly lived, and she no longer considers herself as Amish. The Amish are members of a Christian sect that favors plain dress and plain, rural living, with little reliance on modern conveniences.
“I am ex-Amish, with a big emphasis on the `ex’,” she said.
Asked how she is coping, she said she has a job, rides horses and does what she wishes, including sometimes watching movies and television.
On Wednesday night, for example, “I’m planning on watching `Amish in the City’,” she said with a laugh.