DECATUR — Demariel T. Cunningham, who was convicted of torturing and repeatedly raping a Decatur woman, was sentenced to 50 years in prison Monday.
Cunningham, 37, took the opportunity to address Associate Judge Jeffrey Geisler before he passed sentence and offered no apology to the court.
He complained instead that his trial had been unfair and the woman he was accused of abusing had changed her story. “She came to say I didn’t do it, but I still got found guilty,” he said.
He was then sentenced to 25 years each on two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault, those sentences running concurrent but consecutive to another 25-year sentence for a count of armed violence.
In addition, Cunningham was sentenced to 10 years each on one count of aggravated battery, one count of unlawful restraint and one count of armed violence. All three of those sentences run concurrently with the 50-year sentence. Cunningham was convicted Dec. 14 after a jury trial in Macon County.
Defense attorney Scott Rueter told the court Cunningham continued to maintain his innocence, and, despite many previous allegations of serious crimes, had a relatively small criminal history.
“My suggestion, your honor, is an appropriate sentence in this case would be in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 years,” Rueter said.
For the prosecution, Macon County Assistant State’s Attorney Kate Kurtz called for a total sentence of more than 70 years and said Cunningham deserved every minute of it.
She recalled trial testimony that described how Cunningham, who believed a 30-year-old woman knew where his expensive watch was, worked with an accomplice to beat her and break her ribs in April 2017. Cunningham also burned her bare skin repeatedly with a heated knife blade and kept raping her while holding her prisoner.
“A maximum sentence is not only justified, but anything else would be inconsistent with the ends of justice and deprecate the seriousness of the offenses,” Kurtz said.
Passing sentence, Geisler said he found it hard to see any mitigating factors for Cunningham.
“It is clear Mr. Cunningham has a violent nature ... there is a lot of senseless torture and pain that has been caused ...”
Cunningham, through his attorney, told the court he planned to file an immediate appeal, and Geisler said he would appoint an appellate defender to represent him.
In the meantime, Cunningham may yet face more court action in Macon County. He has outstanding aggravated criminal sexual assault and bodily harm charges arising from a separate allegation. In light of the sentence he just received, prosecutors must decide, in consultation with the female victim in the other case, whether to go ahead with a trial.