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Victims' family speaks out after man accused of sexually abusing granddaughters gets plea deal, dropped charges in Whiteside County

Charles Von Holten was convicted of sexually abusing his grandchildren. Yet, with this plea, he will not serve a day in jail.

MORRISON, Ill. — A Whiteside County man has officially been convicted of sexually assaulting two of his grandchildren. However, a plea deal offered by Whiteside County State's Attorney, Terry Costello, will keep him from serving a day in jail.

Charles Von Holten was first charged in April of 2018 and he bailed out just hours later on a $50,000 bond. He has not returned to jail since. 

His family held a rally just months before Von Holten's plea hearing. Chad Von Holten, the son of the convicted and father of one of the victims, led that rally against the plea offer.

On August 31st, Von Holten's family entered the courtroom in a final attempt to stop the plea offer from occurring. The family took turns giving their victim impact statements.

"One way I discovered Charles had taken advantage of [my daughter] was when she explained that he would watch for her when she went into the bathroom and follow her in. Once in the bathroom with her, he would ask to kiss her. She also told me about the time when he kissed her on her private parts. And she pointed down to between her legs," Chad said during his impact statement.

Over the following hour, Chad and his siblings gave further details on Charles's history, stating that they found child pornography on their father's computer at younger ages — but did not think much of it, until they had their own children.

"Just to be clear, I found out about him sexually abusing my daughter when she was six years old. I truly have no idea how young she was when the abuse started. As a father, it is gut-wrenching to hear. Gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, both at the same time to even attempt to comprehend this," said Chad.

Charles Von Holten, who sat and listened to each victim impact statement, kept his head low.

"To my father, I say this. We're here today going on a never-ending time here in the court system because of your actions. And what you did. You did every bit of this. You have no remorse and no shame."

The two granddaughters, who were under the age of eight when Charles sexually abused them, took the stand to give their own statements.

"I am 10 years old," said one of the granddaughters. "Since April 2018, I have been brave and told the truth about what Charles Von Holten did to me." 

The ten-year-old victim continued to tell the story of how her grandfather had sexually abused her and threatened the safety of her and her family if she were to come forward.

"Being sexually abused by my grandfather at a young age has taken over my life," the victim continued. 

The second victim — who is the first victim's cousin, took the stand to share her victim impact statement as well. She credited her pet horse, who she had confided in.

Despite these heavy impact statements, Whiteside County Judge Trish Joyce spent over twenty minutes explaining what she was about to rule. 

"I do not control which charges the state pursues and which charges the state dismisses. Higher courts have determined that the state has an absolute right to dismiss charges for any reason or for no reason at all. Judges do not have that power, nor do we have the power to force the state to conduct a trial on any charge."

Jude Joyce's statement is true — judges do not have any control over charges that are dismissed or kept. She was the Whiteside County State's Attorney prior to Terry Costello.

Costello served as her number one Assistant State's Attorney — and Joyce, the judge in this case, appointed and swore in Costello.

Yet, her justification continued to fall on the state.

"Again, that decision is solely within the state's discretion. This plea agreement contemplates imposing sex offender registration upon the defendant, that will be a lifelong registration."

Charles Von Holten was granted the plea agreement. 

He now will serve just 180 days under house arrest, pay a $10,000 fine, and register as a sex offender. 

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