After listening to descriptions of the years of pain he inflicted on his victims, Robert J. Robel stood to face the judge who would send him to prison for what could be the rest of his life.
The former security supervisor for The Spokesman-Review, convicted of raping two girls for most of their childhoods, choked back a sob.
“I’ll carry this pain with me for the rest of my life for what I’ve done,” Robel, 61, said through tears. “…I apologize for the hurt and pain I caused my victims.”
Robel was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison in a plea deal approved Wednesday by Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno. Robel pleaded guilty in August to three felonies for sexually abusing two girls for seven and 10 years apiece.
Robel’s public defender, Steven Reich, said his client has “serious health issues” and will likely die in prison.
“It’s really a race between his eligible release date and his health,” Reich said.
The son of Robel’s ex-wife read a statement on her behalf because “she couldn’t bear to be here today.”
She said she tried to figure out what happened to the man she thought she knew. “The answer is so simple - he never existed at all,” the statement read.
“It’s not about facts. It’s about the dreams, hopes, feelings and innocence that was shattered,” the statement read. “Robert brought shame to everyone who knew him.”
Robel had worked at The Spokesman-Review since April 1994 and had been the newspaper’s security supervisor since March 2002. He was suspended from work when U.S marshals arrested him in September 2008. He no longer works at the newspaper.
He was originally charged with first-degree rape of a child, second-degree rape of a child, first-degree child molestation and second-degree child molestation. Robel agreed to a plea deal that dropped the last charge after a second victim, now an adult living out of state, came forward.
That woman spoke in court Wednesday.
“It didn’t change my life. It’s always been who I am,” she said.
Her emotional testimony was followed by a court advocate reading a statement from Robel’s other victim, who also stood at the podium.
Reich told Moreno that Robel shows “true remorse” for his crimes.
“There’s no doubt to his sincerity, his remorse, his embarrassment, his pain,” Reich said.
Robel had prepared a statement but couldn’t bring himself to read it, Reich said.
Robel’s conviction allows for as much as 10 percent of his sentence to be reduced for good behavior, which amounts to about 21 months.
But it will be up to the state’s Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board to decide if he should be released.
His sentence allows for him to stay behind bars for life.
“There’s nothing I could do today to fix what you did,” Moreno said. “You’re getting a little taste of what you put them through, except they didn’t know why they were in prison. You do.”