Man pleads to lesser offense, is sentenced to probation in Lawrence rape case

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office/Contributed Photo

Evan Hiesberger, pictured in January 2020

A judge sentenced a man to two years of probation Thursday in what began as a rape case, and she told the man to stop saying the victim was lying, as he has been convicted of a felony.

Evan P. Hiesberger, 23, was initially charged with rape of a victim overcome by force or fear, a severe level-1 felony, and violation of a protective order, a misdemeanor. On Oct. 22, he pleaded no contest to a less severe, level-7 felony charge of aggravated battery.

Under Kansas sentencing statutes, the sentence for the lesser charge was presumed probation for Hiesberger, who had no criminal history. Assistant District Attorney William Votypka said the victim had agreed to the plea.

According to the probable cause affidavit supporting Hiesberger’s charges, a woman who had known him for several years told police she had gone to Hiesberger’s home, and he had attempted to initiate sexual activity despite her saying “no” multiple times.

The woman said she tried to squirm away, but Hiesberger raped her, and she “froze and closed her eyes” until it was over. She said she waited until Hiesberger was asleep because she was fearful that he might try to keep her in the residence, according to the affidavit.

Douglas County Jail records listed Hiesberger as a resident of Olathe; however, the incident occurred at his home in Lawrence, court records show.

Later, the woman told police, she had confronted Hiesberger over the phone about what happened, and he told her that although she had said “no” multiple times, “she eventually gave up and stated ‘Okay fine,'” according to the affidavit. The woman said she did not say that.

Testing by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab found Hiesberger’s seminal fluid and a partial DNA profile consistent with the woman’s DNA on the underwear she told police Hiesberger was wearing at the time, according to the affidavit.

At the sentencing hearing Thursday, the woman said she didn’t think she would ever have the opportunity to speak about what happened, so she was grateful to be able to. She said “at the risk of sounding dramatic,” part of her died that day, and she had to mourn the person she once was because that person no longer exists.

The woman said she’d seen “the opposite of remorse” from Hiesberger, including when he violated a protection order she’d filed against him by asking a mutual friend to contact her, and that he’s taken no accountability for his actions.

She also said that she’d seen people post on social media that she has “ruined Evan’s life,” and that Hiesberger had told mutual friends that she was lying and he wasn’t guilty.

Judge Kay Huff referenced those comments in sentencing Hiesberger: “Please disabuse yourself of that notion. You are convicted of a felony,” she said.

The woman also said she was thankful for “every individual in Douglas County that has fought for my justice and taken me seriously.” She said she hoped the same thing would never happen to another woman.

Huff said that as conditions of Hiesberger’s probation, he must complete sex offender and domestic violence evaluations and follow all recommendations from those. He is not to use drugs or alcohol, and if he tests positive, he may be required to complete a substance abuse evaluation and follow its recommendations as well.

Should Hiesberger fail to successfully complete his probation, he has an underlying sentence of one year in prison, which would be followed by a year of post-release supervision.

Hiesberger declined to speak at the sentencing hearing when the judge gave him the opportunity.

Hiesberger was out of custody on a $50,000 own-recognizance bond while his case was pending, according to Douglas County Jail records. Court records show that Hiesberger will not be required to register as a sexual or violent offender. However, the judge said at the plea hearing that Hiesberger would not be allowed to purchase or possess a firearm for five years following the felony conviction.

Reached via email Thursday, John DeMarco, Hiesberger’s retained attorney, said he and his client would decline to comment for this article.

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