The family of a 17-year-old girl victimized by convicted rapist Donald Philippi Jr. breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday as Judge Michael Fondi sentenced him to spend at least 25 years in Nevada State Prison.
Philippi, 37, was convicted in December of two counts of sexual assault on a child under the age of 16. A 25-year to life sentence guarantees that he will not be eligible for parole until the age of 61.
After his sentence was announced, Philippi silently exited the courtroom in preparation for transfer to the prison.
Fondi explained his decision to give the maximum sentence, saying, "it is possible Mr. Philippi could have been charged in a much more serious manner."
Prosecutors contend that the sexual abuse started when the victim was 8 years old with intercourse at age 12.
"He was trying to keep his own personal Lolita," Fondi said.
Philippi was arrested February of last year for a molestation that occurred between January 1994 and February 1996.
Testimony from the victim was a factor in the sentence handed down by Fondi. She spoke about the abuse she suffered at Philippi's hands.
"It's going to affect me for the rest of my life - it should affect him for the rest of his life," she said. "He took part of my life, now it's his turn."
She said Philippi systematically prevented her from telling the truth about her situation.
Fondi said the girl may have been taken out of school in an attempt by Philippi to prevent her from revealing his abuse.
The girl also told the court that Philippi's abuse left her with a feeling of distrust toward other people and herself.
"I'm not OK," she said. "I don't trust many people. I'm scared and it has affected me a lot."
Arguing for the minimum sentence of five years in prison, defense attorney Ben Walker said Philippi believed the sexual acts were consensual and that Philippi "fell in love with (the victim) and knew she was underage."
He said five years would serve justice because, "it was a true statutory sexual seduction, but the jury disagreed."
"He wanted to be with the victim," he continued. "He wanted to marry her eventually."
Walker argued that five years in prison plus the community's knowledge of his behavior would be enough punishment.
"He grew up in this town," he argued. "Everybody he grew up with is going to know that he is a sex offender."
Chief Deputy District Attorney Anne Langer, who argued for strict sentencing, countered Walker's defense.
"It's a hard pill to swallow to believe that an 8- to 12-year-old girl consented" to sex, she said. "This man preyed on an innocent young girl."
Deputy District Attorney Derek Dreiling prosecuted the case in December.
Walker said it is likely that Philippi will appeal the case to the Nevada Supreme Court.