Monday, January 7, 2013

Valenta sentenced to 32-60 months in prison

A Wilber woman convicted of attempted prostitution, tampering with evidence and lying to authorities about a sexual assault was sentenced to 32-60 months in prison in Gage County District Court Wednesday.

Jennifer L. Valenta, 28, will serve three months in prison for attempted prostitution, 12 months for false reporting, and 20-48 months in prison for tampering with physical evidence. The tampering with physical evidence charge will be served consecutive to her sentences for attempted prostitution and false reporting.
Valenta was given credit for three days served.

On Nov. 24, 2011, Valenta told law enforcement she was raped by four men at Big Indian Lake in southern Gage County. Authorities later arrested Elliot Hawkins on Valenta’s testimony.

During an investigation, Valenta submitted photos of her injuries to authorities that were later examined during a medical expert and determined not to match the timeline of the rape.
The medical examiner also said the injuries could have been self-inflicted.

Valenta also told investigators they could find paper towels at the scene that would implicate Hawkins and three others in the sexual assault. A DNA sampling showed DNA from Hawkins and Valenta only, however.

During a Jan. 19, 2012 interview, Valenta told authorities she was accompanying Hawkins on Nov. 23, 2011, and engaged in sexual acts with him for money. Valenta also told authorities she used her fingernails and a disposable razor to cut herself.

Hawkins denied the story, but some statements he made corroborated Valenta’s story. He was later released from jail and all charges against him were dropped.

Public defender Stephanie Clark, who represented Valenta, said her client was prepared to serve jail time, but asked that the incarceration be limited in lieu of a lengthy term of probation with substance abuse counseling.

District Court Judge Paul Korslund denied Valenta’s request, calling the case “disturbing.”

“You engaged in a deception at a very extreme level that caused a lot of work by law enforcement, it generated sympathy for you which it was intended in some way to do that,” Korslund said. “It involved not only false allegations against Mr. Hawkins, but lies about other people being involved in a sexual assault against you.”

Korslund said Valenta’s actions could have “serious ramifications” on future victims of sexual assault.

“Sexual assault by its very nature involves a victim testifying as to something that happened and the victim, often times, is placed on trial, so to speak,” Korslund said. “The credibility of the victim is an important issue in any sexual assault case, and what you have done is to damage people who are real victims of sexual assault, especially since it was played out in the media the way it was.”

Valenta shook her head but remained silent when given the chance to speak.

She will be eligible for parole in 16 months and for full release in 30 months.