Sentencing in Person: February 10th, 2021
Updated: Feb 17
January 29th, 2021.
After hours of being wide awake… it’s time to get up and write. I slept from 11 pm – 12:30 am… If I’m not going to sleep… I may as well be productive. I wanted to share something I posted on social media today. It reads:
On February 10th, I get to read my Victim Impact Statement in person to the man that broke into my home and raped me with my son sleeping in his bedroom next door to mine. Last week I put in a request to the Winona County court as to why I need to (yes, need) read my statement in person, rather than on Zoom. Yesterday, my request was granted. To put it in perspective, a majority or all court cases in Minnesota are via Zoom with exception of the George Floyd case (that I’m aware of).
Reading my statement in person, I hope, will feel more real to him- a small step towards restorative justice. It will feel more real to me- a small step towards closure and healing.
I will not be allowed to have support people with me while I read one of the most meaningful speeches of my life, except for my mom as she is fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as well. But this is okay... I am ready!
I will share my letter to the court as well as my Victim Impact Statement once sentencing is over.
Reason #101 as to why I vaccinated. I became tearful with the nurse that administered my second dose of the vaccine because I was so grateful. Thank you, Mayo Clinic.
I also wanted to share the letter I sent to the court detailing the reasons I needed sentencing to be in person. This was sent on January 16th, 2021 and it reads:
[To the Court’s Victim Advocate]
As you know, it is especially important to me to read my victim impact statement in person at sentencing. I’ve already had my first vaccine, and I’ll be getting my second dose on January 28th. I’d be happy to share my vaccination records with the court. Additionally, my mom was in the first wave of people getting the vaccination, so she’ll have her second dose in the next week or so. If able, I’d like to request that my mom be in the courtroom with me as a support person, since she will be vaccinated and would be happy to share her vaccination records with the court if needed. If my mom is not granted to be in the courtroom (where we could easily social distance), I’m still willing to do this completely solo.
Reading my victim impact statement in person where Zane (Pederson) will be made to see/listen to me and feel my in-person presence, rather than simply through a video screen, is an important small step in restorative justice. He will not feel the full impact of what I have to say and how this has impacted my and my family’s life without me being present in the room with him. Additionally, since he’s also being charged with sexually assaulting a vulnerable adult, though not sentenced yet, it presents a pattern to his behavior proving that a dabble into restorative justice is even more important than if I were the only victim. Zane has preferred hearings to be via zoom – why? Because it is less emotional and real, I can imagine. Which isn’t fair for the victim, me, whose life it has completely turned upside down.
I’d like to reiterate that there would be extremely minimal risk of transmission of COVID-19 during the sentencing hearing for multiple reasons starting with my mom and I being vaccinated. The implementation of masks and social distancing is another reason, as well as if we were to use hand sanitizer upon entrance of the building and obviously not coming if we’re feeling unwell. Since there is such minimal risk and such an extreme benefit for me in my healing journey from this assault, I think the benefits easily and significantly out way the risks. The stigma of the court in the public’s eye is that it is to protect the defendant. In a case with such an obvious perpetrator and a plethora of evidence, this would be an easily accommodatable step for something that will greatly benefit the survivor. I will never be fully healed nor will I ever feel like the person I was prior to the attack. But this, again, is an easily accommodatable, safe step for my healing journey and peace of mind while the next countdown of my life begins: only about 12 years of my freedom with my son until he reaches his freedom from prison.
Thank you kindly, Danielle Leukam
In the last sentence of the email above, I wanted to break down the “12 years” statement. The man that raped me plead guilty in November of 2020 and will be sentenced to 250 months in prison. This equates to 20.83 years. Good time served would potentially then drop it down to 2/3rds of that: 13.875 years. Furthermore, he’s already been in county jail since March of 2019, dropping it further down to roughly 12 years.
“Good Time will reduce the term of imprisonment one day for every two days of good behavior for those committed to the Commissioner of Corrections following conviction of crimes which occurred on or after May 1, 1980, and prior to August 1, 1993. Good time earned accrues to a period of supervised release. Earned good time is vested, and cannot be taken away for misconduct. Earning of future good time may be restricted upon conviction for disciplinary violations promulgated by the Commissioner of Corrections.” - MN Court Rules
As I was hanging out in bed for the last couple of hours, I got to thinking about how many people have been so incredibly supportive over the last two years. I truly wouldn't be where I am today nor as okay as I am without them. So super brief shout out... My family, my friends including Jake, Anne, Anna, Katie, Jenny, Jordan, plus so many more, my coworkers, providers I work with, Missie with Mayo Clinic Security, Investigators Dungy and Lokken, the prosecutors, the court's Victim Advocate, and last but not least... Leona, the mighty guard dog.
So here we are. His sentence is my sentence and my son’s sentence as well – marking our years of freedom until he is out. I know this may be a morbid way of looking at it, but I can’t change how I feel nor how he is as a human being. *Insert shoulder shrug here*
So I shall don my red sparkly heels and march on in this crazy world with my head held high advocating, being an activist, and writing. And I really hope my boss doesn't mind me taking a nap on my lunch break today. =)
P.S. Besides for the insomnia, I feel just fine after my 2nd vaccine!