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CAMBRIDGE — A Kewanee man was sentenced to probation and 60 days in jail in Henry County Circuit Court Tuesday for one count Class 2 felony aggravated criminal sexual abuse and one count Class 3 felony child pornography.

Phillip A. Murphy, 36, was charged April 17, 2017, with five counts of criminal sexual abuse and 15 counts of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to one count of each on April 11.

The charges relate to a relationship he had with a 15-year-old girl. A letter from the girl was read in court in which she called him an innocent man and asked that he not be punished. She said the relationship began after she messaged Murphy, and he said that she was too young, but finally with hesitation he agreed to see her.

Fifty people attended Tuesday's sentencing hearing on his behalf. Four people spoke: his mother, two friends and his live-in girlfriend. His mother noted the important role he plays in the family business, Murphy's Container Service, a waste disposal company. His girlfriend said she and her two sons, 13 and 10, had been living with Murphy for almost two years and he treated them like his own.

“I just love him a lot and he would do the same for me if it were the other way around,” she said.

Henry County State's Attorney Matt Schutte noted there were 55 character references for Murphy, who were all people he could have called to say, 'I've got this 15-year-old messaging me' “and he would have had 55 people telling him to stay away.”

Instead, he “threw caution to the wind” and engaged in a sexual relationship five separate times when he was already in a relationship, meeting her in places such as picking her up in a cemetery. Schutte noted an earlier DUI conviction and a conviction for criminal damage to property 19 years ago.

“Now it's on the court from his perspective to keep him out of jail, but it's not incumbent on this court to bail him out now that's he's done what he wanted to do,” said Schutte.

Nevertheless, the prosecutor recommended a 48-month probation term and 180 days in jail.

Defense attorney Sam Amirante compared his client to Jesus Christ, who he said was once tempted by Mary Magdalene. “Jesus Christ himself felt it because God made him a man. We are humans. No human being is capable of not making a mistake or doing something in their life that they can't forgive themselves for. (Murphy) gave in to his own male frailty and he regrets it even more now.”

Amirante noted Murphy's sexual evaluation indicated he had zero probability of repeating the crime.

“He truly and sincerely is sorry and there's a true air of contrition. He's not a danger to Kewanee or to Cambridge or to Henry County or to the U.S. of A. He's Phillip Murphy, one of the good guys.”

In imposing the sentence, Judge Terry Patton explained why he was giving Murphy jail time on top of probation. "There are things people do that are too serious to do to just be sorry about it and there has to be punishment," he said.

Amirante asked the judge if the jail time might be left for the end of the probation to impose only if necessary, but the judge denied the request. "I think this is a very favorable sentence for a guy with multiple sexual encounters with a teenager that takes adequate notice of mitigating factors," he said.

In addition to a 48-month probation term, Murphy will have a fine of $1,500 plus court costs on each count, a $500 sex offender fine, a $200 sexual assault fine and a $500 child pornography fine. His 60-day jail term was stayed to June 17 and he was given credit for 12 days served.

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