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Disbarred Attorney Michael Harssema Given Maximum Penalty by Jury
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Michael Harssema

Summary: A jury gave former attorney Michael Harssema the maximum penalty for sexually assaulting a teenage girl that came to him for legal help.

A Collin County jury made it clear what they thought of a disbarred attorney accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl that went to him and trusted him because of his position as an attorney. The jury gave Michael Harssema the maximum penalty of 20 years after the two week trial, according to the Dallas News.

  
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The County Court at Law Judge, Barnett Walker, said he will listen to hundreds of jail phone calls that were admitted into evidence but not used during the trial to decide if Harssema, 45, should serve his three 20-year sentences at the same time or one after the other.

Walker said, “Your perversion runs so deep that you couldn’t even wait two days.” Five years ago, Harssema sexually assaulted the teenager in this specific case and assaulted another one in a case pending in Dallas soon after he met them. The judge also noted that his actions of telling the girls, victims of sex trafficking, that they could be “sold like cattle to the cartels” was equally unforgivable. Harssema gained their trust because he was “the one person standing between them and a life of absolute horror,” the judge said.

Harssema was convicted last week of one count of sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency by contact.

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While the jurors deliberated, defense attorney Thomas Pappas requested a mistrial for several things that he felt were unfair, including a witness discussing a banned topic. The judge denied his request. The jurors only took three hours over the course of two days to reach the decision for the maximum sentence allowed for second-degree felonies. He was also fined $10,000 for each count.

Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis said, “We’re gratified by the jury’s verdict and grateful they saw it our way. People hire a lawyer to be their protector. In this case, that protector was actually a sexual predator.”



The victim was a 16-year-old who struggled with drug abuse and bulimia. The girl was kept as a hostage and sexual assault victim at a “trap house,” according to her mother’s testimony. Her family was going to hire Harssema to represent their daughter. She testified that they had sex in the back of his Jaguar while it was parked in a neighborhood. The victim, now 21, said, “He took advantage of me. That is rape.”

It was during the punishment phase testimony that jurors learned about another victim who was 14 when Harssema took her to a Dallas hotel room to have sex. That case is pending in Dallas County. It was also revealed that Harssema has an opioid addiction and was dealing with a debilitating medical condition. His attorney claims he will likely need full-time care in the next 12-24 months and will die within the next three to five years from the condition.

Do you think a medical condition should be a factor in sentencing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about attorneys who take advantage of underage victims, read these articles:

Photo: dfw.cbslocal.com



 

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