A man who delivered a 17-year-old runaway to a state Department of Corrections halfway house, where she was repeatedly raped by four men there, was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison.
Nathan J. Thompson, 20, who was convicted in June of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of felony bail jumping and one count of misdemeanor bail jumping after a jury trial, failed to see Breyanna Kalk as a human being, and “treated her like a thing, not a person,” when he took her to a DOC-provided home on St. Paul Avenue in the town of Blooming Grove on July 7, 2016, Dane County Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara said.
There, according to testimony at Thompson’s trial, she was raped by Thompson and three other men. All but Thompson were prior sex offenders. Kalk had left a group home where she was living to hang out with a friend and with Thompson, whom she hadn’t met before that night. Thompson gave her the drug known as Ecstasy and took her to the DOC house after texting to one of the men at the home that he had a THOT, an abbreviation for “that ho over there,” Assistant District Attorney Jessica Miller said.
Kalk committed suicide less than a month after the assaults. In June, her family filed a federal lawsuit against the operator of the group home where she was living, Orion Family Services, alleging negligence and deliberate indifference to Kalk’s serious medical needs.
But Miller said that one person who was buoyed by news of Kalk’s death was Thompson. Sitting in the Dane County Jail after his arrest, she said, Thompson was speaking with his mother and others when he said that with Kalk dead, he would be getting out of jail soon.
“Yeah, that bitch gone,” Miller quoted Thompson as saying before he broke into about eight seconds of laughter.
“I’m not playing that call today out of respect for Breyanna’s family,” Miller said. “But I do have to say that the laughter is a chilling laughter.”
Miller, who asked for a 16-year prison sentence, said Thompson is the only one of the four men convicted of raping Kalk who hasn’t taken responsibility for it. The other men pleaded guilty to crimes and testified at Thompson’s trial.
“But for Nathan Thompson,” Miller said, “the sexual assault would not have happened that night. Nate chose Breyanna that night. He knew she had run away from the group home. He knew she was vulnerable. He gave her Ecstasy. He lied to her. He lured her. He chose to go into that dark basement. He chose not to stop when she was crying. He chose not to stop any of the other guys from raping her. He chose not to help her.”
Thompson’s lawyer, Eric Schulenburg, said Thompson has become a better person since his arrest, and that he has actually benefited from being in jail because of the education that he took only grudgingly at first but now eagerly demands.
“He is different than he was two years ago,” Schulenburg said. He asked for a five-year prison sentence.
But McNamara questioned how far Thompson really has come. In a pre-sentence report written by a DOC agent, he said, Thompson tells a version of events that is “shockingly unlike” any told by his co-defendants or by Kalk, whose statement to a trauma interviewer at the Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center was not shown to the jury.
“I don’t believe almost anything in the statement you make to the Department of Corrections in the PSI,” McNamara said. In it, he said, Thompson claimed that Kalk was the girlfriend of co-defendant Stephon Hiler, and that Kalk had accused Thompson of being gay.
“That’s scary if you believe that and if you know it’s not true, and yet you try to put that out there anyway,” McNamara said. “That you’d say things like that even a few weeks ago shows you haven’t changed much.”
Members of Kalk’s family asked that Thompson get the maximum sentence, though they had been told prosecutors would not seek it because this was his first criminal conviction.
Randy Kalk, Breyanna’s grandfather, said she is sorely missed by her family, and only a maximum sentence could potentially bring him closure. The maximum sentence for the sexual assault conviction alone was 25 years in prison and 15 years of extended supervision.
“Mr. Thompson planned all this,” Kalk said. “Mr. Thompson affected so many lives. It’s unbelievable, not just for my family but for friends and Breyanna. I just don’t want it to end on such a sour note that Mr. Thompson would not be getting the maximum penalty.”