A Vincentian native and former Enfield Massachusetts resident who was convicted by a jury in 2010 of molesting a 10-year-old girl in 2008 — then fled while awaiting sentencing and spent almost nine years as a fugitive — has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, followed by five years’ strict special parole.
Judge Julia DiCocco Dewey, who presided over Gerald “Steve” Jessop’s trial and let him stay free on $50,000 bond while awaiting sentencing in February 2011, imposed the sentence last week despite a request by the girl Jessop molested, now a woman in her 20s, that he not receive prison time.
Just The Facts
MARCH 2008: Molestation occurs
SEPT. 22, 2009: Gerald “Steve” Jessop arrested based on girl’s allegation and his video-recorded confession.
OCT. 29, 2010: Jessop convicted of first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child, but allowed to stay free on $50,000 bond pending sentencing.
FEB. 23, 2011: Jessop fails to appear for sentencing.
FEBRUARY 2020: Jessop arrested in the U.S. Virgin Islands and returned to Connecticut.
SEPT. 30, 2020: Jessop sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The judge said during the sentencing that the victim had made that request in an interview with the probation officer who prepared a report on Jessop’s background and the crime’s effect on the victim, according to an audio recording of the hearing.
But Dewey added, “My hands are tied.” She cited provisions of Connecticut’s laws on first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child, the crimes Jessop was convicted of, setting mandatory minimum sentences of five years in prison in light of the victim’s age.
Still, the 15-year prison term the judge imposed on Jessop, now 53, for the sexual assault was considerably longer than the minimum.
“One of the most troubling aspects of this case is that you fled the country before sentencing,” the judge told Jessop.
After eluding authorities for almost nine years, he was re-arrested in February in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He is a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a country in the West Indies, and faces deportation from the United States after he completes his prison term, which may make his term of special parole largely academic.
The judge also criticized Jessop for blaming the victim, saying during his presentence interview with the probation officer that she had been “somehow inappropriate.”
“Rather than help this child, you took advantage of the child,” the judge told Jessop.
The victim spoke during the Hartford Superior Court sentencing, which was held at least partly via teleconference, with Jessop watching on video. The young woman said Jessop’s 2010 trial was “very challenging for me.” She said family members had been “badgering me not to talk.”
She said her response to such pressures has been that “I no longer have any contact with them, which led me to grow.”
Nevertheless, the victim said she will always want Jessop in her life.
The judge said the victim had told the probation officer that she didn’t want a standing criminal protective order. But Dewey issued such an order anyway, potentially requiring Jessop to stay away from the victim for life. The judge added, however, that the victim can seek a modification of the order once she has “had therapy and her family is more settled.”
The girl accused Jessop of molesting her on a single occasion in March 2008.
She testified at his trial that she had fallen asleep on Jessop’s bed while watching television and awoke to find him touching her in a sexual way.
The incident came shortly before the state Department of Children and Families removed the girl from Jessop’s home on grounds of physical abuse. But she didn’t disclose the touching incident until some 16 months later, in a counseling session with a therapist at the Genesis Center, a Manchester program for the mentally ill.
Jessop testified at the trial and denied the girl’s accusation. But he had signed a confession during a police interrogation on Aug. 13, 2009.
A DVD recording of much of the interrogation was played for the jury. It shows a detective exhorting Jessop to confess for more than two hours. (NewsBreak)