CASSOPOLIS — A Dowagiac business owner was sentenced to life in prison Friday by Cass County Circuit Court.
Kevin Hanner, co-owner of the Wood Fire restaurant in downtown Dowagiac, had previously been convicted of criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography.
April’s trial in Cass County Circuit Court before Judge Mark Herman ended with Hanner’s conviction on three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, six counts of aggravated possession of child sexually abusive material and six counts of possession of child sexual abuse material – all as a habitual offender.
Hanner, 53, of South Front Street in Dowagiac, was sentenced to nine concurrent life terms on Friday for criminal sexual conduct and aggravated child pornography. He received six concurrent sentences of four years to 15 years in prison for the other counts of child pornography.
He has 374 credit days already served and must register as a sex offender. His fines, costs and compensation total $4,590. He must not have any contact with the victim or with anyone aged 17 or under.
The criminal sexual conduct incidents occurred from September 15, 2020 to October 6, 2020 against a 14-year-old boy in downtown Dowagiac. The child pornography incidents occurred between 2016 and November 2020 in Dowagiac. A search of his computers and phones found hundreds, if not thousands, of images and videos of adults having sex with children, some as young as toddlers.
Judge Herman didn’t mince words before sentencing Hanner. “There is a place in hell for your species and for these people in these videos,” he said. “You are 53 years old and this is not your first time at the rodeo. You’ve been sentenced to jail twice in Berrien County and once in Texas.
“The evidence of your guilt was overwhelming,” the judge said. “You befriended the young victim on Grinder and gained her trust. He came to your apartment several times and you engaged him in sexual activity. He reported you to the police and their search of your apartment found a number of computers and cell phones with photos and images of hundreds if not thousands of adults having sex with children, some also young than toddlers.
“How any individual can derive any kind of sick and twisted pleasure from ruining the life of a human being, let alone that of an innocent child for a few moments of perverse pleasure, is inconceivable to this court,” a- he added.
Judge Herman deviated from the recommendation of 40 years in prison, noting that Hanner fled to avoid prosecution and was found in Texas apparently soliciting another underage boy and that the guidelines did not take into account his history of child victimization.
“You became treatment savvy and gave up on any real rehabilitation effort, you didn’t really seek treatment to change your predatory behavior,” he said. “The court has no doubt that you will strike again if given the opportunity.”
“The mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years is required by law, but with nearly a quarter of a century of experience repeatedly victimizing society’s most vulnerable citizens, the court believes a longer sentence is warranted. .. Lives were destroyed and you showed no remorse.”
“Society bent over backwards to give you the opportunity to change and now society is asking the court to bend over backwards to finally make sure you never get out of jail to victimize other kids again,” he said. he added.
The victim’s mother spoke out before sentencing. She said she saw her child change from what had happened to her and was only beginning to recover. “He wasn’t the same person anymore, he suffered so much with our family,” she said. “No amount of time will fix what this monster has done. 40 years is not enough.
“I ask you to take all of this into consideration, I hope he never sees the light of day again,” she added. “He ruined my child’s life.”
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Hubbert called Hanner a serial child predator. “He’s been like this his whole adult life, hopefully his streak of trauma from Michigan to Texas ends today,” he said. “…There is a dire need to protect the public and individuals who fall victim to human traffickers and child predators from this horrific and graphic abuse. He’s just a bad man.
Defense attorney Greg Feldman said Hanner tried to make a living after he was last released from prison and ran a successful business in Dowagiac. “He tried to get better, pay taxes and run a business, unfortunately he ran into this problem,” he said.