KEENE, N.H. -- A Hinsdale man was sentenced to not less than 30 years behind bars Monday for allegedly sexually assaulting two children a year and a half ago and will serve the term concurrently with a federal sentence of 300 months after pleading guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of children.
Benjamin Maes, 32, pleaded guilty Monday in Cheshire County Superior Court to two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and received sentences from Judge John Kissinger, three days after Maes was sentenced to 300 months (or 25 years) in federal prison as the result of a plea deal reached in March. All the charges, including one count of sexual exploitation of children, were brought against Maes for inappropriately touching a young boy and a young girl in 2012.
Assistant Cheshire County Attorney John Gasaway said Maes is in federal custody and the Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine where he goes from here. He said good behavior may get Maes, who has about a year and a half of pre-trial credit, released early from his initial 25-year sentence. Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner, who said Maes was taken into custody as a result of a collaborative effort by several law enforcement agencies, told the Reformer Maes will serve 10 years in state prison if he gets out of federal prison after only 20 years.
Friday's federal case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen White Fitzgibbon, according to a press release.
During Maes' plea and sentencing hearing on Monday, Gasaway spent time building a case to convince the judge to hand Maes as heavy a sentence as possible. He said Maes had previously stated he began viewing child pornography because he felt he wasn't getting any attention at home. According to Gasaway, Maes sexually assaulted the two children and took photographs and video of them without their knowledge. Maes allegedly also sent the photographs to other men via Craigslist in exchange for pictures of other children. Kissinger said he wished to have the exhibits sealed due to their graphic nature and there was no objection by Maes or New Hampshire Public Defender Jay Buckey.
Gasaway also said Maes recently got into a prison fight with a fellow inmate and injured him. But Buckey said it was simply a basketball game that got out of control and Maes was just defending himself. Buckey also said the defendant is a Marine Corps veteran who was suffering from depression and a crumbling marriage at the time of the incidents. Buckey said Maes takes responsibility for his actions, will be on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life and is extremely remorseful for what he did.
Kissinger entered his chambers to review all the arguments before reemerging to deliver the sentence. He then sentenced Maes to not more than 50 years, and not less than 25, for the first count of aggravated felonious sexual assault and not more than 10 years, and not less than five, for the second. He explained he came to his decision because crimes of a sexual nature against children "are among the most serious." He also said Maes needs to be "locked up and isolated" for as long as possible.
After the hearing, Gasaway told the Reformer he is satisfied with the sentence Maes received.
"I think it's fair," he said. "I'm happy with the outcome."
Faulkner said he is also pleased with the result, though he understands that many people will be angry Maes does not need to serve even more time. The Hinsdale police chief also stressed the importance of the cooperation exercised by several agencies working to bring Maes to justice. He applauded the teamwork of the New Hampshire and U.S. attorney general's offices, the Cheshire County Office, the Hinsdale Police Department, the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
"This isn't just a Hinsdale case," he said outside the courtroom. "We were able to take a collaborative effort in a very short amount of time -- we're talking hours -- to save two children and put a serious offender away."
Faulkner previously told the Reformer Maes was taken to the Hinsdale Police Department, where he was read his Miranda Rights and then interviewed, following his December 2012 arrest. During the interview, Maes admitted to viewing, receiving and sending child pornography, according to court documents. He also admitted to producing child pornography and sharing it online. According to court documents, Maes was initially accused of two counts of sexual exploitation of children, one count of transportation of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Maes is a 1999 graduate of Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wisc.
The Reformer previously reported an investigation into Maes' activities began in November 2012, when an online sting orchestrated by the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force in Washington, D.C., identified his computer as the source of images containing child pornography that were sent to an undercover agent. Investigators used a data image tool to determine that the pictures had been recently taken. With the help of the Hinsdale Police, federal agents managed to confirm Maes had taken the photographs.
Buckey did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.