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Almost 10 years after the crime, a man convicted in the near deadly beating of a 17-year-old girl was sentenced Wednesday afternoon to the maximum 18 years in prison.
Brittani Marcell, now 27, was attacked in her West Side home in 2008 by an intruder who left behind a drop of blood as he escaped out a back window after Marcell’s mother interrupted the beating.
Justin Hansen, now 34, was arrested in 2017 after detectives DNA-tested a cup he threw away at a fast-food restaurant and found that his profile matched the one found at the crime scene. He has maintained his innocence.
“That droplet of blood is pretty profound for me. It wouldn’t be there unless Mr. Hansen was there,” District Judge Cindy Leos said just before imposing the maximum sentence in one of the city’s most-watched cases.
That decision brought a sense of relief, satisfaction and closure to Marcell, who has endured more than 20 surgeries in the 10 years since the attack.
She spoke about the ways in which her life was derailed by the beating. She worries she will never get married or have children – both events that Hansen has experienced in the years since the crime.
“On Sept. 11, 2008, I had a plan for my life. I had goals. And one of them was not to be a survivor of a violent attack. After the attack, that was my only goal,” Marcell said. “On Sept. 11, my dreams and goals were beaten out of me.”
Leos announced the sentence at the culmination of an hourslong hearing in a packed courtroom Wednesday afternoon. Hansen was immediately taken into Metropolitan Detention Center custody.
In his own statement to the court, the father of four apologized to the Marcells for what they have been through and said that he has thought about them “so much over the past year.”
He did not acknowledge any involvement in the crime Wednesday. Instead, he offered individual messages to each of his children and asked Leos to keep them in mind as she made her decision.
“Your honor, my kids are too little to understand what’s going on. But they are old enough to suffer the effects of their daddy’s absence,” he said.
Leos said the impact the crime has had and will have on children – Hansen’s children and the Marcell siblings, the youngest of whom was 12 at the time of the attack – stood out to her.
“One poor decision is going to change (Hansen’s) life forever, and it will change his children’s lives forever. They are innocent in this, as the Marcell family was,” Leos said.
“But I can’t forget the little children, including Brittani, who were impacted by Mr. Hansen’s violence that day.”
Hansen’s attorney, Rose Osborne, argued for a suspended sentence and questioned whether sending Hansen to prison would serve any purpose. Hansen had no criminal record other than the attack and has complied with conditions of court-mandated supervision over the past year.
“The harm to the Marcells is permanent and can’t be fixed. And what that means is that whatever your honor’s choice is, it won’t change that,” Osborne said. “You don’t have that power to fix it. It’s not going to bring back her eyesight or her appearance; it’s not going to make her trust the world again.”
Prosecutor David Waymire outlined Hansen’s previous run-ins with the law, nearly all of which involved young women or teens, but did not result in convictions. He said he believes the attack was intended to be an abduction and sexual assault – an assertion Osborne said was a “leap” – and asked the judge to impose the full 18 years.
“It’s a far cry from what he really deserves,” Waymire said of the maximum sentence, adding that incarceration would protect society at large and other young women.
Hansen pleaded no contest before Leos to aggravated burglary and attempted murder. There was no minimum sentence.
After the completion of his sentence, Hansen must spend two years on parole.
“In some ways, this has consumed all of us for a decade,” Brittani’s sister, Alicia, told reporters after the hearing. “We all have this new space now that we can fill with healing.”