MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Dennis Long, 66, will likely spend the remainder of his life behind bars after an Elmore County jury determined he sexually abused a child that was close to him from the time she turned nine until she was 11 years old.
Long rejected a plea agreement and took the case to trial.
“Because of the child’s age, she actually had to take the stand, talk about what happened to her and take a jury through instance by instance, and piece by piece of her memory of how things unfolded,” explained Chief Deputy District Attorney C.J. Robinson. “It’s really, really hard.”
The victim's family tearfully asked the judge to show no mercy.
“We will never get over this,” the victim’s mother told the court.
“He didn’t show our daughter an ounce of mercy, so we are asking you not to show him any mercy,” the victim’s father said.
Circuit Judge Bill Lewis went far beyond the recommended sentencing guidelines for Long, who has two prior child sex offenses dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. While this was not a mandatory guidelines offense, Lewis explained his decision.
“I’m sentencing you so heavily because they are trying to let everyone out [of prison],” Lewis said. “Hopefully when they look at that sentence they will see, based on the evidence at trial, it’s a very, very egregious offense.”
Despite including Long’s two prior offenses while calculating the sentencing range, Lewis said it was “barely above the amount” to sentence the defendant to prison.
“The state of Alabama requires us to address why we don’t stay within the voluntary guidelines,” Lewis explained during the sentencing. “With someone with two prior offenses towards young girls, and a current conviction with two counts toward a young girl, I believe you should get more than 204 months.”
Lewis’ sentence comes at a key time as lawmakers work to solve the state’s prison crisis. The legislature is expected to take up legislation that would decrease the current prison population along with reforms to decrease sentences for some offenses.
Robinson said convictions like this show the people behind the state’s prison numbers.
“I think this case is a perfect example of what you’re hearing as these are promoted versus what we are seeing in the real world,” Robinson said. “They are two different things.”
Given the defendant’s age, the defense requested a split sentence of one to four years. It’s unclear whether they will pursue an appeal. Despite what happens in the future, Robinson says he’s committed to seeing that Long remains behind bars.
“The next best thing we can do is be sure that he rots inside a jail cell for as absolute long as he can,” Robinson stated. “He should never be able to walk out of a prison cell and hurt somebody else.”