I-Team: Sentences for sex offenders in Rhode Island - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

I-Team: Sentences for sex offenders in Rhode Island

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One night in 1996, Annette Amaral had gone to bed, only to be woken by a man standing over her, breathing heavily.

"It was the scariest night of my life," Amaral said. "I woke up, I couldn't breathe, I was gasping for air. He was duct-taping my mouth shut, and then he raped me, repeatedly, over hours."

The rapist was Amaral's husband at the time, Joseph Dorsey. Several weeks before, he broke into Amaral's house and raped her, and he sexually molested Amaral's 5-year-old daughter.

Amaral had gotten a restraining order preventing Dorsey from contacting her or her daughter, but he ignored that and attacked her.

It took Amaral more than two years to convince police, and eventually a jury, that Dorsey was guilty of rape and sexual molestation of a minor.

He was found guilty in 1998, but then Superior Court Judge Stephen Fortunato sentenced Dorsey to 30 years in prison, with only 10 to serve. With good time, Dorsey was back out on the street in just over 7 years.

The I-Team reviewed statistics about prison sentences for sex offenders in Rhode Island.

According to the Department of Corrections, in the calendar year 2012, 84 people were sent to the state prison as sex offenders. Of the 84 people, 50 percent were sentenced to 5 years or less, 21.4 percent were sentenced to between 5 and 10 years in prison. Only 6 percent were sentenced to 10 to 15 years, and only two people were given life sentences, and one of those was a person serving a life sentence in Rhode Island after being convicted in another state.

Peg Langhammer of the sexual assault victim's advocacy group, Day One, said the relatively short sentences for serious sexual assault crimes are not a surprise.

"No one ever serves the full sentence that they receive," Langhammer said. "There's good time, there's the sentence and then the actual time they have to serve."

But Langhammer points out longer, mandatory sentences are not the answer. She said many times the victims of sexual assault know their attackers. They are often a loved one, or someone they know. If the victim knows the attacker is going to face a long prison sentence, or even life in prison, they are sometimes reluctant to report the assault.

The I-Team attempted to contact Dorsey, but he could not be reached.

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    About the I-Team

    NBC 10's I-Team was the first investigative unit in Rhode Island.

    Formed in 1979, the I-Team has produced award-winning investigations into organized crime, public corruption and social issues ranging from child abuse to battered women.

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