Former Jerling teacher sentenced to probation for sexually assaulting two students
After delays of more than a decade, a Jerling Junior High school basketball coach accused of sexually molesting two female students was finally sentenced on Thursday. The two victims, who were 13 when the sexual harassment began in 2008, decided to accept a plea deal to get past the continued trauma.
By Ray Hanania
A former Jerling Junior High school basketball coach was sentenced to two-years probation on Thursday (Dec. 3, 2020) in a plea deal that ended a decade of trauma for two sisters from Orland Park.
Cara Labus, 36, faced up to five-years in prison on more serious charges of Felony Sexual Assault had she been convicted in a trial. Labus was charged in 2015 with sexually molesting the two Orland Park girls over a three-year period between 2008 and 2011.
The mother of the girls, said they accepted the plea agreement because her daughters wanted to move on past the continued trauma after the case was repeatedly delayed in the court system. She said Labus had targeted her daughters because their father had committed suicide just before the sexual abuse began.
“It’s been more than a decade and five years since she was charged and it has been just terrible for the girls,” the mother who asked not to be identified said.
“The sentence was not nearly enough of what she should have received.”
The two girls were sexually molested by Labus from the time they were 13 years old at Jerling.
Labus threatened that she would commit suicide if either victim exposed her physical sexual assaults that included oral sex and digital sexual manipulation.
Circuit Court Judge Kerry M. Kennedy said he was outraged by Labus’ conduct.
“You are a predator. You definitely took advantage of these two young ladies. They are 14 years old suffering from the loss of their father. And you just took advantage of them and you continued to take advantage of them,” Judge Kennedy said.
“This is one of the most egregious cases I have had in front of me … it is just unconscionable.”
After pleading guilty to two lesser charges of Class 3 Aggravated Battery, Judge Kennedy sentenced Labus, who declined to comment during the sentencing hearing, to two concurrent terms of two-years probation during which she will be identified as a Sexual Predator, but she will not have to register as a sex offender.
Neither of the victims attended the hearing which was conducted via Zoom because of the Coronavirus restrictions. But “impact statements” written by both victims were read into the record by Cook County Assistant States Attorney Krista Peterson.
One victim wrote, “Unfortunately, I was a victim to her abuse due to my vulnerable age and due to my loss of my father … I was sexually abused for three years and mentally and emotionally abused for four years.”
She said she faced depression and considered suicide, calling Labus, “I feel at peace knowing that children will be protected from Cara’s abuse. She is a danger to kids and a disgrace to society. Cara you have knocked me down but you didn’t break me. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.”
The other victim wrote, “You manipulated and took advantage of two vulnerable 14 year old girls who just lost their father to suicide. I truly thought you cared and wanted to help our family move forward during that difficult time … you are pure evil. You are a sick sociopath … you destroyed my childhood and my high school experience and my future wellbeing.”
She added that as a result of her trauma, she received a Masters Degree in social work “to help victims of child sexual abuse.”
Assistant States Attorney Dominick Dolci, who represented the two victims, said the girls agreed to the plea deal “to put this trauma behind them.” He said they recognized that even if convicted, the five-year-old charges would probably not have required Labus to serve prison time because of the long delays and the fact that Labus had spent nearly six years (2,141 days) on electronic monitoring awaiting trial.
Kennedy said that if Labus violates probation, she could face a year in prison.
Private attorney Gene Hollander, who represents the girls, is pursuing a civil case against District 135 alleging that the school administration failed to take actions to prevent the ongoing abuse once notified about the problem.
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