POLK COUNTY, Texas - A Polk County dad is speaking out after his 14-year-old daughter was raped and the judge handed down a sentence that will allow the rapist to walk free about 100 days from now.
The convicted rapist, Eli Binnion, forcibly sexually assaulted the child--this was not an underage willing participant, said Polk County District Attorney Lee Hon. He told FOX 26 by phone, this was a serious case with a dangerous perpetrator.
Prosecutors recommended 15 years in prison, according to Hon, but Polk County District Court Judge Travis Kitchens sentenced the rapist to 180 days in jail as part of probation--no prison time.
"Be careful what judges you elect," the victim’s father told FOX 26.
The sentence was handed down at a June 3 punishment hearing, allowing convicted child rapist Eli Binnion, 22, to walk free about a hundred days from now, according to Hon. The crime happened in July 2018 when Binnion was 19 and his victim was 14.
"What is the judge telling our children when we try to teach our children to go to the police?" asked the victim’s dad who asked to conceal his identity to protect his daughter’s privacy. "Let the police handle everything. Let the law do it. That’s what their job is, and then this happens. You get a slap on the wrist. No victim is gonna want to come forward and go through all of the struggles and all of the ordeal that they have to go through, just for the person to get out and walk free."
The rape allegedly happened at the Hampton Inn in Livingston during a 4th of July gathering in 2018. The victim’s father says she left the gathering at her family’s home and rode with two other people to get supplies from the hotel and return to the gathering. One of the people she rode with was Eli Binnion--someone the girl’s father says he’s known for years. He never thought he’d do something like this.
The District Attorney says Binnion followed the girl into the hotel room, forced her down on the bed, and raped her. Nearly three years later, she now knows her rapist will be free in a matter of months.
"I know that I’ve went in the room and she’s crying at night, can’t sleep, jumpy, jittery, emotional at times," said the victim’s dad. "She’s strong though. She’s coming over it best as can be expected, I guess. But she still had something taken from her that shouldn’t have been."
Hon told FOX 26 the child’s parents asked to testify in the case, but according to Hon, Judge Travis Kitchens declined to hear testimony.
"They said that they didn’t want to hear it," said the victim’s father, recalling his conversation with prosecutors. "Wouldn’t do any good. He already made his mind up."
Binnion’s defense attorney Mike Davis told FOX 26 by phone that he was at every hearing and never heard the judge decline to hear family testimony. If the family wasn’t allowed to testify, it was the decision of the district attorney’s office, said Davis.
Court records show that while Binnion was in jail for the rape, he brutally attacked a fellow inmate, breaking his jaw. Judge Kitchens gave Binnion a three-year sentence for the assault, and because he’s been in jail since 2018, he’ll be out in a matter of months.
Court records show Binnion has an additional criminal history of assault and evading arrest prior to the rape. Binnion pled guilty to the rape, will be on probation for 10 years, and must register as a sex offender.
The victim’s dad said he believes Judge Kitchens greatly misjudged the case.
"He made a very bad decision, and I pray that he doesn’t regret the decision he made, cause it’s gonna happen again," said the victim’s dad. "People like that don’t just stop."
FOX 26 tried to get ahold of Judge Travis Kitchens without luck. He is the same judge FOX 26 covered a few weeks ago who mandated the parents in a divorce to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to see their kids.
"I promised my daughter justice," said the victim’s dad. "And obviously I was wrong because the court system is not gonna give it to her."