Lee David Topping, 53, of Main Street in Niles, was sentenced by Berrien County Trial Judge Scott Schofield to three years in prison for criminal sexual conduct — assault with intent to commit sexual penetration over a five-month period in 1998.
Topping previously served a three-year prison term for criminal sexual conduct from a 2001 case, also involving a minor girl.
The 1998 case involved a girl he was acquainted with. He at one point took her on a camping trip with him and his own young daughter. Schofield said Topping placed the girl in greater danger by taking her to the campground and exploited his relationship with her.
Topping’s attorney, Steven Freeman, of Lansing, tried to question the victim’s recollections since she did not come forward until 10 years after the incidents took place. He also said that Topping was acting out sexual fantasies with the young girl.
Schofield said he found the victim’s memory to be “quite clear” and her testimony and demeanor during a preliminary hearing earlier this year to be “quite convincing.”
Assistant Prosecutor Mary Malesky said that while Topping had received intensive therapy during his previous incarceration, she felt that the seriousness of the crime warranted more prison time.
Freeman tried to argue that the case should be treated differently and Topping given some leniency since he had been successfully rehabilitated after the 2001 conviction and subsequent prison term.
Freeman also painted a picture of a man who had been affected by a tragedy when he was a teen and involved in a traffic accident that killed another, as well as exposure to child pornography activities.
Schofield said he didn’t know whether Topping had been rehabilitated or not, but that “a price has to be paid” for what was done to the victim in this case.
“My purpose is primarily not reformation but punishment and to protect the public,” he said. “It may have been an evening of perverse pleasure for you, but you sentenced the young lady to a life sentence.”