Downtown sex criminal gets 40 years

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March 24, 2003 // UPDATED 9:25 am - April 30, 2007
By: Bob Gilbert
Bob Gilbert

Dennis Lee Whitley Jr. was sentenced to 40 years in prison March 18 for sexually assaulting a woman jogger near Downtown's Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis last February.

The sentence was roughly eight times longer than average for fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct -- the charge Whitley was convicted of -- and four times longer than the 10-year maximum sentence. That's because Judge Thor Anderson ruled Whitley was a patterned sex offender who posed an ongoing danger to society.

A 33-year-old Caucasian, Whitley has a history of sexual assaults dating back to the mid-1980s. In 1994, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The Stone Bridge incident happened nine days after his parole. If Whitley serves his entire sentence, he will be 73 years old when released.

"Given Whitley's criminal history there's every reason to believe that he will attack again given the chance," said Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

In the Downtown incident, a police report said that Whitley was riding his bicycle alongside the victim making suggestive comments about her body. He continued his pursuit after she crossed the bridge and ran north along Southeast Main Street. The victim panicked when she approached a wooded area. Whitley dismounted his bicycle, grabbed her buttocks and reached his hand to her genital areas. The woman said she feared that he was going to rape her.

When she pushed him away and attempted to call police on her cell phone, her assailant fled.

Whitley turned himself in to police when his picture appeared in a television news story as a suspect.

Whitley failed to properly register himself as a sexual predator, which is required by law. Evidence at his trial suggested that he had attempted to sexually assault another woman earlier in the day.