Lyle Burgett built a reputation as a prominent businessman in Stockton, California, but now the 79-year-old is gaining nationwide notoriety after he admitted to raping a 5-year-old girl and was handed a sentence of just 90 days of house arrest.
As Fox 40 reported, Burgess was a friend of the girl’s family and invited them to his cabin in 2016. The girl was just 5-years-old at the time she was first assaulted by Burgess.
“They trusted this man, he was a family friend, and he took advantage of them,” said Ken Meleyco, an attorney for the family.
The attorney added that the girl, who is now 7, is struggling to cope in the aftermath of her abuse and has been in counseling. He added that she shows signs of having been molested as well.
Despite the severity of the charges, Lyle Burgess was charged with statutory rape and will only serve 90 days of house arrest in his upscale gated community. Meleyco said he is worried that future victims are not protected from Burgess.
“He’s obviously very wealthy and it’s just an example of how the wealthy people, time and time again, escape the penalty for what they did,” Meleyco said.
On top of the light sentence, Burgess also will not have to register as a sex offender after he completes an informal five-year probation period.
The girl’s mother had claimed that she witnessed Burgess putting his hand down the girl’s pants. An assistant district attorney told the Los Angeles Times that despite being classified as rape, the crime did not actually involve penetration. The 79-year-old maintained his innocence but said he accepted a plea deal because of his frail health.
“The whole case was based upon some minor touching that my client denied even occurred,” said Gregory Davenport, an attorney for Lyle Burgess.
At the hearing this week, a judge reminded the girl’s family that they had initially agreed to the plea deal as well and saw it as fair.
The light sentence drew the ire of many people, and the story made the rounds on social media. Some even made Burgess a target for harassment, posting his listed address and phone number.
Neither Burgess nor members of the young victim’s family commented publicly on the case.
The girl’s family have now filed a civil lawsuit against Lyle Burgess. It is unclear the exact damages they are seeking from the business owner.