BLOOMINGTON — Two Bloomington residents were sentenced to probation Monday in the aggravated sexual abuse of two minor girls.
In February, Kanakaraj Sheelam, 45, admitted to molesting one of two girls with whom he was acquainted. The plea deal with the state dismissed seven other counts of sexual abuse and indecent solicitation involving the victim and a second child named in initial charges.
Judge Scott Drazewski sentenced Sheelam to 48 months of probation.
In a separate sentencing hearing Monday, co-defendant Sashikala Ramachandran, 38, also received 48 months of probation for permitting the sexual abuse of a child. A jury convicted her in December of charges that she knew of the abuse and did not stop it.
In asking Drazwski for a second chance, Sheelam apologized to the victims and his family and said his 428 days in jail since his arrest have given him a new attitude.
“I’ve changed to be a better man,” he said.
In handing down the sentence, Drazewski noted the charges are Sheelam’s first felony case. The judge also agreed with the observation of defense lawyer Hal Jennings that Sheelam’s offenses have cost him his job and home and will require him to comply with sex offender treatment and registration rules.
The written statements of the girls submitted in both cases confirm that “we certainly have victims here who have suffered,” said the judge.
Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Ghrist asked for a four-year prison term for Sheelam and six years for Ramachandran. A stint in the Department of Corrections was justified for both based on the seriousness of the offenses, he said.
The woman’s lawyer, Brendan Bukalski, said cultural issues likely played a role in her not realizing that Sheelam was abusing the two girls because of a philosophy that women must be submissive to men.
In her remarks to the judge, Ramachandran also asked for a second chance.
“Please give me mercy and one more opportunity to rebuild my life,” she said.
Drazewski pointed out that a sex offender evaluation placed Ramadrandan in the low-risk category to offend again, but the report cautioned that her denial of wrongdoing could make sex offender treatment difficult for her.
The judge also noted that Ramachandran spent 151 days in trial before posting bond and has suffered other personal consequences of the criminal case. The first-time felon qualified for probation, he said.
People “can get the message without having to go to the Department of Corrections,” said the judge.