MOORHEAD, Minn. – A Clay County judge on Monday sentenced a Barnesville man to four years and six months in prison for sexually assaulting a 21-year-old quadriplegic woman who has the mental capacity of a 5-year-old.
Clay County District Court Judge Galen Vaa sentenced Michael Ray Herbst, 46, to six months longer than what Clay County prosecutors sought. Vaa called the case one of the most severe he’d ever seen.
“She was at the total mercy of the defendant,” Vaa said. “It just perplexes me someone would do such a thing.”
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Herbst’s attorney, Alan Sheppard, asked the court for a reduced sentence of three years. He said Herbst did not realize the extent of the woman’s vulnerability.
Herbst thought the woman’s impairments were exclusively physical, rather than mental, Sheppard argued, and that her difficulties with speech were due to her not being a native speaker of English.