Man representing himself in court sentenced to 60 years for sex offenses
Dubbed a “serial rapist” by the opposing lawyer, a 47-year-old North Charleston man who represented himself in court was found guilty Friday and will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.
Alan Burns, who was charged with abusing five children since the early 1980s, was found guilty on all 12 counts of criminal sexual conduct and committing a lewd act on a minor after more than three hours of deliberations.
Circuit Judge Markley Dennis sentenced Burns to two consecutive 30-year terms for each of two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and concurrent terms for the other counts. He must serve at least 85 percent of the 60 years, meaning he likely will never be released from jail, 9th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Debbie Herring-Lash said.
Burns represented himself, a move Herring-Lash called “unusual.”
“It’s harder for the victims,” she said. “Not only do they have to talk about what happened to them, but they have to do it with the person who assaulted them asking the questions.”
Herring-Lash called Burns a “serial rapist” and praised the victims for their bravery in coming forward.
Some of the victims made their claims in 2010 and 2011, records filed in the 9th Judicial Circuit show.
Burns was arrested in 2010 after a family member, now an adult, told police he was sexually assaulted in 1997 and 1998. Burns was accused of sexually assaulting a female family member between 1981 and 1983. Another female victim, who also came forward last year, said Burns assaulted her between 1982 and 1984.
During the trial, Dennis said, “This case is replete with examples of why a person should not represent himself,” adding that he was not passing judgment on Burns’ performance, but that representing himself would make it difficult for Burns to ask for a new trial.
During his closing arguments, Burns said he is “not trying to be a lawyer,” and realized “the odds are stacked totally and completely against me.”
After the verdict, when Burns moved for a new trial, Dennis said he had to “respectfully deny” the request.
The case has divided the family, and court security was called Friday to break up a spat that erupted outside the courthouse while the jury was deliberating.
After the jury returned, Dennis warned the family that if they had any reaction when the verdict was read, they would be held in contempt of court. Family members sat quietly, most with their heads in their hands while listening to the jury’s findings.
Extra security was in place, and family members were escorted from the courthouse after the sentencing.
Before the sentencing, one victim talked about how the experience robbed her of her innocence and has affected her throughout her life.
Another family member said the charges date back to when Burns was a minor, and he should have been tried as such.
Dennis said he agrees with the jury’s verdict.
“I would have voted the same way (as the jury) based on the evidence I heard,” he said.
Then, addressing Burns, he said, “You’ve had opportunities before, and when you were released from prison for being punished for the same thing, you did it again,” referring to a conviction decades ago.
Burns, who has a history of arrests dating to 1984, is a registered sex offender.
He was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and committing a lewd act on a minor in 2003 and sentenced to 10 years, Herring-Lash said.
“I am very pleased with the verdict, especially for the victims,” she said. “This has been extremely difficult for them. Some of them have been dealing with this since the mid-1980s.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.