MORRISON, Ill. — It has been nearly three months since Whiteside County State’s Attorney Terry Costello successfully gave Charles Von Holten, a man who sexually assaulted two of his grandchildren dating back to 2018, a plea bargain.
That's despite his own family's efforts to have the judge reject the plea deal. Chad Von Holten, Charles's son, led two different rallies leading up to the plea hearing.
That plea bargain sentenced Charles Von Holten to 180 days of electronic monitoring (house arrest with access to his acres of land) house arrest, registering as a sex offender, 48 months probation and a fine.
The house arrest sentence was granted even after Chad and his wife, Arminda, informed the court that Charles was their next-door neighbor.
“They knew that and we were told by Costello he can’t help where we lived,” Arminda said.
“House arrest was not going to give justice to our little girl. And, yeah, like he said, 'I can't help where you live,'” said Chad.
While this is the latest sex offender case in Whiteside County that resulted in no prison sentence after the plea dismissed all class x and class one felony charges, it is far from the first.
Since becoming State’s Attorney in 2017, Terry Costello has granted similar plea agreements to five other sex offenders. While the State’s Attorney has pleaded out and dismissed many more sexual assault cases, these five cases have nearly the same plea: 30-180 days in county jail, register as a sex offender, probation and a fine.
News 8 reached out to Costello on multiple occasions: including phone calls, emails and waiting at his office. None of those attempts were successful.
“Prosecutors are public servants, they're elected officials, and they should be reasonably transparent about what they're doing," Northern Illinois law professor and former prosecutor Daniel McConkie said. "Of course, there are things that prosecutors can't tell the public about their privacy interests in child sex abuse cases, obviously. But at the same time, in cases of great public importance, prosecutors should be giving some explanation about why they're doing what they're doing."
In 2015, a man by the name of Julio C. Rosas was charged with three class two felonies of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a victim under the age of five. The case lasted roughly two years before State’s Attorney Costello granted Rosas a plea bargain. That plea dismissed two of the three class two felonies, sentencing him to 60 days in county jail and 48 months probation. In 2020, Rosas went back to court after an alleged violation of probation, resulting in an additional $2,500 fine.
In September 2022, the state filed a motion to destroy evidence. On Oct. 7, the motion was allowed.
"He received a 60-day jail sentence in that case, the case went on for almost two years," McConkie said. "And I couldn't I couldn't discern from the file, why he got such a low sentence when the initial charge was so serious."
In 2018, Ronald Gray faced multiple different charges: a class two felony of aggravated criminal sex abuse involving a victim over the age of sixty, a class four felony for criminal sexual abuse using force, a class three aggravated battery on a victim over the age of 60 and a class A battery misdemeanor.
The case lasted for over a year before Costello granted Gray a plea bargain that dismissed all charges besides the class A misdemeanor charge, sentencing Gray to 30 days of home confinement and 24 months of conditional discharge.
“That's a class two felony that would usually get a three-to-seven-year prison sentence in the Department of Corrections,” McConkie said. “Mr. Gray got 30 days of home confinement and all felony charges were dismissed. All the felonies, including the sex felonies, were dismissed. And I couldn't tell why.”
In 2016, Eddie Douglas was charged with two class X predatory criminal sexual assault felonies and one class two aggravated criminal sexual abuse felony. The case lasted two years before Costello gave a negotiated plea that dismissed both class X felonies: bringing Douglas’s charges down to one class two felony.
Douglas was sentenced to 180 days in county jail and 40 months probation. In 2021, Douglas received another criminal felony after violating his sex offender registry by allegedly failing to register. That case is ongoing.
In 2015, William Kramer was charged with one class X predatory criminal sexual abuse felony and one class two aggravated criminal sexual abuse felony. Kramer’s case went on for about three years while he was in custody.
In 2018, Costello gave Kramer a negotiated plea. Kramer plead guilty to a lesser charge that sentenced him to four years in the department of corrections, with 731 days credit served.
“To me, that case is a little unusual, because he was facing a class X felony, which, again, is typically a sentence of between six and 30 years. He got a four-year sentence,” McConkie said.
The shortest out of these cases lasted nearly two years.
State's Attorney Costello has still refused to comment on any of these cases.
Watch more news, weather and sports on News 8's YouTube channel