Contractor gets 90 days in jail for child abuse

A Carson City contractor who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl but maintained his innocence was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail.

District Court Judge William Maddox gave a stronger sentence for the gross misdemeanor lewdness charge against Robert Hilke Jr., the 52-year-old owner of Hilke Construction, than the probation sentence that was recommended by attorneys for both the defense and prosecution.

Hilke agreed to plea to lewdness in exchange for the prosecution's decision to drop a felony charge of lewdness with a child under 14 and several more gross misdemeanor counts of lewdness.

One of the charges dismissed by the Carson City District Attorney's Office came from accusations that he fondled a 16-year-old girl in 2005.

But Hilke, who was surrounded by family after the sentence, told Maddox that he only pleaded guilty to the lewdness charge to avoid a jury trial that could have resulted in a long sentence that would taken him away from his family.

He apologized to the girl involved for "any discomfort I might have caused her" as well as to the court.

"You will never see me here again," he told Maddox.

The girl's mother, who is not named in this article to protect the girl's identity, asked the judge to "make this wrong situation right for my daughter" by sentencing Hilke to jail for looking at the girl's genitals at least twice between June and November 2005.

The court needs to show that it will back up the decision of children to report abuse, she said.

Hilke's attorney, David Houston, said he was disappointed by the jail sentence, especially because he and Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner had agreed probation was best.

"(Hilke) was faced with a choice: Face life imprisonment with a jury trial or accept a gross misdemeanor and social consternation," he said in an interview after the sentencing. "As we told the judge, he made the decision as a husband and a father that required him to be available for his family."

Maddox also sentenced Hilke to therapy and three years on probation.

He said he's dealt with child abuse cases for over 30 years, and "often times it's difficult to tell where the truth lies."

Time in jail is needed for Hilke, however, Maddox said, because even if he isn't guilty of the exact crime he's accused of, he certainly did something inappropriate.

- Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.

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