As he stood before Judge Geary Kull just after noon Oct. 12 in the Maybrook Courthouse, former River Forest foster parent Robert Gaskill faced 25 felony charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of a girl under his care.
But in a development that was condemned by his alleged victim, Gaskill was allowed to plead guilty to a single count of disorderly conduct, a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Judge Kull accepted what is called an “Alford plea,” from Gaskill, which allows a criminal defendant to enter a guilty plea while still asserting his innocence and not admitting to the alleged criminal act. The deal, worked out between prosecutors and Gaskill’s defense attorney Ellen Domph, required him to admit to having approached the victim, Amber Moore, “in such a manner as to alarm her.”
Other than uttering the word “guilty” to the judge’s query, Gaskill made no public statement.
After accepting the plea agreement, Kull sentenced Gaskill to “time served” in county jail, which was more than the 30-day maximum sentence for disorderly conduct.
Assistant State’s Attorney Michelle Lynn Papa told Kull at Thursday’s hearing that Amber Moore objected to the plea deal before asking him to allow Moore to read a victim impact statement. The judge denied her request, saying such statements are not permissible in plea deal cases. Domph also weighed in, referencing an Illinois statute that she said permits victim impact statements only in cases where the defendant has been convicted of a violent crime.
For Gaskill, it was the end of a 69-months-long process that saw him jailed and forced to leave the home he shared with his wife, Mary and move to a condo in Oak Park.
Gaskill, now 69, was arrested by River Forest police in February 2012 after Mystee and Amber Moore, two sisters who lived for years in his home, told investigators that he had sexually molested them on numerous occasions starting when they were young girls.
Gaskill spent six weeks in Cook County Jail and was subsequently indicted on a total of 41 felony counts in two separate criminal cases, including aggravated criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13, criminal sexual assault involving force and predatory criminal sexual assault.
Last February, following a bench trial, Kull acquitted Gaskill of all 16 felony charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of Mystee Moore. In issuing his verdict the judge noted that the prosecution called only one witness in the case, Moore, and presented no testimony from police investigators.
That lack of additional witnesses stemmed from the impeachment of any possible testimony by the lead River Forest investigator due to his misconduct in another criminal case he supervised. That fact, Domph argued, “cut to the heart” of the officer’s credibility and the state’s case.
Domph, did not return a Thursday phone call seeking comment. And Assistant States Attorney Papa declined comment on the case afterwards.
The two sisters and their aunt, Cathy Moore, sat down with the Chronicle after the sentencing to discuss their feelings about the case and how it had affected them. They expressed a mix of optimism, hurt, confusion and defiance, as well as outrage at what they say was unfair treatment by the court system.
They insist that justice wasn’t done, but say they’re done with hurting over any injustice, and just want to move on.
Asked if they intended to take their grievances against Gaskill to civil court, Amber replied, “No. It’s done. It’s been five years. That’s enough.”
They said they hoped any news article did not portray them as angry and vindictive, something they say their former family and Domph had portrayed them as being. Though Amber Moore said of her former family, “Today’s a good day because I never have to see them again.”
Mystee, who said “It scares me when I raise my voice,” said whatever anger she feels is tempered by the fact that for the age of 2½ to 19, she considered the Gaskills and their birth children “family.”
Both women lauded the efforts of ASA Papa on their behalf, saying they felt she had fought for their interests and done all she could. Asked why they thought the two sides had come to the plea agreement that allowed Gaskill to plead 25 felony charges to a misdemeanor, Amber Moore said that in informing them of the decision to plead down Gaskill’s charges, Papa told them, “It’s out of my hands.”
But the two women were quite critical of the judicial system, saying they felt ignored by the court. Kathy Moore said she felt both Kull and the first judge, Noreen Valeria Love, who retired two years into the 5½-year-long case, did not take them seriously.
“I have stood up for the truth,” Moore wrote in a statement. “I did what was right and I never swayed from my decision, as much as I wanted to run away from it all, to forget how you hurt me.
— River Forest foster parent facing 25 felony counts pleads guilty to disorderly conduct —-