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Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2005 03:25 pm

Better than nothing

After years of terrorizing women and children, Michael Redpath is behind bars — but not for very long

Michael Redpath on Dec. 14, after he was sentenced to three years in prison.
As Michael Redpath celebrated his last day of freedom with a gathering at his North End home, his neighbors quietly rejoiced. Several women who live near Redpath’s house on North 22nd Street tell Illinois Times that the convicted child molester would come to their homes uninvited, offering to help with yardwork and other chores. They say that they always declined. They also say that they warned children to stay away from him. Redpath’s reputation for sexual impropriety was well known, the women say. All spoke on the condition of anonymity, explaining that they fear retribution from Redpath’s family. One brother is a Springfield alderman whose ward includes their homes. Another is a retired Springfield police officer, and Redpath’s late father was a high-ranking Springfield police administrator. Two women who live on Redpath’s street say that he sometimes sat on his front porch clad only in underwear. “White boxers — that’s disgusting,” says one neighbor, adding that he would stare at women while barely dressed. On Dec. 13, the neighbors say, there was a get-together at Redpath’s home, with more than a half-dozen vehicles parked outside his modest home. The last guest lingered past 10 p.m. It was a chance to say goodbye. The next day, looking every bit a broken man, Redpath appeared in Sangamon County Circuit Court and was sentenced to three years in prison for sexual abuse and fined $200. If he behaves himself, he could be out in 18 months. “Good luck to you,” Judge Robert J. Eggers said after pronouncing sentence. Redpath, who had been free on bond, was immediately taken into custody. He waved to two men in the audience who had accompanied him to court as deputies escorted him out a side door. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the most serious charges: that Redpath forced a 5-year-old girl to perform oral sex on him and raped the 10-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend. Each of those charges of predatory criminal sexual assault carries a minimum six-year sentence, but prosecutors agreed to the three-year term in exchange for a guilty plea to a less serious crime with a seven-year maximum penalty. Redpath could have been sentenced to probation, but his attorneys began the sentencing proceeding by telling Eggers that they were withdrawing their request for no prison time. Redpath appeared subdued throughout the proceeding, saying only “Yes, sir” and “No, sir” in response to queries from the judge. He showed no emotion when the mother of his victim, now 16, told the court that her family still has love and God in their lives but that Redpath has stolen all of their laughter. “I miss that pain-free laughter,” she said as her daughter looked on, stoic, from the front row. The woman, whose own mother had died of cancer just four days earlier, also told the judge that she’s angry at the system for not protecting her child. “Even my mother, who we just buried yesterday, suffered because of him,” said the woman, who trembled afterward and appeared on the edge of tears. Redpath has a long history of sexual offenses against women and children. Prosecutors filed no charges in 1995 after a Riverton woman accused him of raping her. Less than a year later, he tried luring a 12-year-old Springfield girl into his car, but prosecutors plea-bargained the case, allowing him to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault. In a recent interview with Illinois Times, State’s Attorney John Schmidt, who personally handled the abduction case before becoming Sangamon County’s top prosecutor, insisted that the plea bargain resulted in consequences for Redpath, who was given a 180-day jail sentence. However, the conviction wasn’t serious enough to keep Redpath from getting a state job as a highway-maintenance worker. Nor did Redpath face any punishment for sucker-punching an acquaintance in a bar while on probation for that crime. Redpath is now considered a first-time sex offender who will be required to register with police as a sex offender when he is released. “I think he deserved more time, but I’m glad to see him off the streets,” says the father of the girl, now 9, whom Redpath forced himself on in 2001. “I think you kind of take what you can get. I think when he gets back out, he’ll reoffend. I feel sorry for anyone who comes in contact with him.”
The father, whom Illinois Times is not identifying to protect his daughter’s anonymity, was on the Lanphier High School wrestling team with Redpath more than 20 years ago. There was no hint at that sentencing that the two men knew each other. “He wouldn’t even look at me,” the father says. Illinois Times received scores of e-mails and phone calls after publishing a Dec. 8 story about Redpath and how he’s skated through the legal system [Bruce Rushton, “Predator”]. Without exception, almost every individual declined to have his or her name published. One exception is Kelly Milner, a former tenant of Redpath’s who lived next door to him in a North End duplex for about three years in the late 1990s. He was the landlord from hell, she says. “When I would take the rent over to his apartment, he’d answer the door in his underwear and start rubbing himself,” Milner says. “He rubbed his crotch in front of me all the time — he would constantly tell me that we could take the rent out in trade. There were times I’d go outside, I’d wear shorts and a tank top, and he drenched me with a hose.” When she opened a nail salon in her home, she says, he would stand on his porch in his underwear as customers departed. “Needless to say, I lost clients because of him,” she says. On one occasion, Miller says, Redpath got physical. After an African-American friend stayed with her, Milner says that Redpath, who had been drinking, came over and told her that black people weren’t allowed on the premises. “He threw a fit,” Milner says. “He grabbed my arm. He left a bruise on my arm.” Milner says that although she called police, nothing happened to Redpath, whom responding officers called by name. “The police just told him to get his drunk ass back in his apartment,” she says — and that was it. “I was infuriated when I read about his sentence [in a daily newspaper],” Milner says. “I can’t believe he only got three years. He’s just absolutely sick.”
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