Jamie Taylor/River News
Stavros Iliopoulos, left, sitting next to defense attorney Andrew Morgan, uses headphones to listen to a translation of his sentencing hearing Friday, Nov. 22, 2019, in Oneida County Circuit Court. Iliopoulos was sentenced to 14 years in prison and 16 years extended supervision with credit for 368 days already served.
11/26/2019 7:30:00 AM Iliopoulos sentenced to 14 years in prison Former custodian to receive credit for one year already served
A former elementary school custodian convicted of luring a 10-year-old child into a school closet and touching her inappropriately will be confined in prison until he is nearly 80 years old.
Stavros G. Iliopoulos, 66, was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison following his convictions on child enticement, false imprisonment and first-degree child sexual assault charges. An Oneida County jury deliberated for less than 90 minutes on the afternoon of Sept. 6 before rendering guilty verdicts on all three counts.
Following his incarceration, Iliopoulos will serve 16 years of extended supervision, meaning he's likely to be monitored by the state for the remainder of his life.
Iliopoulos learned his sentence one year and two days after a fifth-grade student at Northwoods Community Elementary School student reported that he had intercepted her as she was leaving a restroom, forced her into a janitor's closet and touched her upper chest and stomach area.
Iliopoulos was working in the school as a janitor on the day of the incident - Nov. 20, 2018 - but was fired after the girl came forward.
Friday's sentencing hearing began with a statement written by the child victim read by a family member.
In the statement, the girl explained that she has always loved everything about school and felt "happy and safe" at NCES.
"I looked forward to school starting every year," she wrote. "I acted silly and goofed around with my friends. I laughed a lot. I trusted all my teachers and everybody who worked at the school including the janitor who everyone called Mr. Steve. He acted nice to me and my friends, offering us candy and extra milk. I believed he was my friend."
She then recounted the events of Nov. 20, 2018, describing the fear and confusion she felt upon being forced into a small room and held there against her will.
She recounted that Iliopoulos told her not to tell anyone what happened, but she immediately told her friends and they went with her to report the incident to a teacher. She then described the anxiety and confusion of the rest of the day, the interviews with police and a trip to Wausau for an examination by a nurse.
Since the incident, she wrote that she has had trouble sleeping and is sometimes afraid to be alone.
"My family felt sad and angry that this happened to me," she added.
The now-11-year-old also wrote eloquently of the aftermath of such an assault, especially for a young person living in a small community.
"At school I felt embarrassed and ashamed," she wrote. "I knew that the kids were talking about me and what had happened and I wondered if I had done something that caused this to happen. I wondered if it was my fault. I kept asking, why me? The worst part of this experience is knowing that other people are talking about me and the assault, but they don't talk to me about it. Sometimes I feel invisible, like the other kids don't see me. I do not laugh nearly as much as I used to."
With the support of her family and counseling, the 11-year-old wrote that she has come to understand that what happened to her was not her fault.
"Mr. Steve, you sexually assaulted me, but I'm not going to let it ruin my life," she wrote. "I'm glad that I told me friends right away. If I had not told, Mr. Steve probably would have assaulted me again or assaulted other children. I hope Mr. Steve is never allowed to be around children again and I hope no other child must go through what I did."
After a family member read a brief statement written by the girl's brother, her mother also addressed the court.
She noted that her daughter was planning to have a friend over for a sleepover on Nov. 20, 2018 and instead of innocent fun she had to endure police interviews and a medical examination.
"Living in small area has been extremely tough," she added. "Anonymity isn't an option in a small town."
She also noted that Victory Janitorial is still the contracted custodial service in the School District of Rhinelander, so her children are forced to see people wearing the same uniform as Iliopoulos wore.
She also described the changes she has seen in her daughter over the last year, including a marked difference in her feelings about school.
"The start of school year was not the usual high-energy event," she said. "For first time ever my girl, who would go to school year round if she could, didn't want to go to school."
Despite the challenges, her daughter has persevered, she continued.
"I truly don't think (Iliopoulos) realized how strong my little girl was and is," she said. "I think he saw a sweet girl he could he could manipulate and do what he pleased with when and where he wanted. Guess what, Stavros, you messed with the wrong girl. My daughter is strong and will continue to be strong regardless of what you did to her. She spoke up for herself and other kids."
Assistant district attorney Mary Sowinski kept her remarks brief.
"I would beg the court to remember that in this community, as in any community, school should be a sacred place and a place of safety," she said, before recommending a sentence that would ensure Iliopoulos is supervised by the probation department for the rest of his life.
Defense attorney Andrew Morgan was equally brief. He noted that Iliopoulos maintains his innocence and is appealing the verdict, thus he does not believe there should be a sentencing.
Through an interpreter, Iliopoulos said a few words on his own behalf.
"I respect everybody and never in my mind to do harm to a person," he said. "God bless my enemies and my friends."
Judge Michael Bloom began his remarks by noting the factors that must be considered at sentencing, including the gravity of the offense, the character of the defendant and the need to protect the public.
He then launched into a defense of the verdict.
"I'm not so naive as to think there are never wrongful convictions in criminal cases in this state and the U.S. in general," he said. "If a court believes there's been a miscarriage of justice, the court must do something about it. My judgment in this case is the available evidence does not indicate a miscarriage of justice."
Bloom cited several factors that led him to conclude there was sufficient evidence in the record for the jury to find the defendant guilty as charged.
Specifically, he noted the victim made a contemporaneous report of the incident. She reported the assault immediately after it happened and in relatively specific terms.
Secondly, there was corroborating evidence in the form of video surveillance that put the defendant and the victim in the locations indicated by the victim.
Third, the defendant acknowledged being in the closet with the girl and telling her not to tell anybody.
Finally, there was physical evidence, in the form of the defendant's DNA on the victim's body, he noted.
He then turned to the gravity of the offense and explained that it requires substantial punishment.
"Luring a child into a small room, closing the door and keeping her there is a grave and serious offense," the judge said. "A man has lured a child at a school where he was supposedly a trusted employee, closed the door, wouldn't let her leave, pulled at her clothes, kissed her bare skin. It is repugnant conduct that require a substantial response from the justice system. There needs to be a substantial prison sentence imposed in this case."
Bloom then handed down a sentence of 14 years in prison.
On the child enticement charge, Iliopoulos was sentenced to 4 years in prison. On the false imprisonment count, he was sentenced to one year in prison. Both of those sentences are to be served concurrently with a 14-year sentence for first degree sexual assault of a child.
Iliopoulos will receive credit for 368 days already served.
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