Prosecutor and Sheriff issue joint statement on Vert sentencing

On March 17, 2022, Shawn Alex Vert (age 35) was sentenced by the Honorable James P. Lambros of the 50th Circuit Court in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Mr. Vert was sentenced to 35 years to 60 years in the Michigan Department of Corrections, based on his conviction of one count of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 1st Degree. Mr. Vert has eight prior felony convictions, including a separate Criminal Sexual Conduct conviction from 2002, Distributing Sexually Explicit Material to Children in 2011, and multiple Sex Offender Registration Act violations.

Mr. Vert was convicted by a jury of his peers following a trial that took place on Wednesday, October 27 through Friday, October 29, 2021. The case was presented to the jury by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Kristin M. Giommi, with the assistance of Detective Jeffrey Erickson and Deputy Jeffrey Kietzman of the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office.

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Shawn Alex Vert

Over the three-day trial, jurors viewed approximately 13 pieces of evidence and heard from 10 witnesses who described the traumatic events that transpired on August 11, 2020, when Mr. Vert took advantage of a relative who was in a vulnerable, unconscious state when he sexually violated her. The victim in this case showed tremendous strength and fortitude as she sat in front of a group of strangers and described the events in detail. The victim told the jury that she woke up during the sexual assault and when she tried to fight back, he held her down and continued the assault. The Chippewa County Sheriffs Office responded to the scene and recovered the victim’s torn clothing and transported her to War Memorial Hospital for a rape kit to be completed, which ultimately established that Mr. Vert’s DNA was found on the parts her body where she had described being assaulted. This was contrary to Mr. Vert’s assertion that he did not sexually assault her.

Sexual assaults are one of the most horrific crimes a person can experience, with the emotional effects lasting a life time. At sentencing, Assistant Prosecutor Giommi told the court that Mr. Vert was a sexual predator with a history of violating the law and posing a repeated danger to the community. Mr. Vert was on parole at the time of the offense and had several prior violations both in and out of custody. She expressed that the only way to keep the citizens of Chippewa County safe was to remove Mr. Vert from the community for as long as possible.

According to Sheriff Michael Bitnar, “It is very uncommon to receive an immediate call for help in a sexual assault case. In our experience, disclosures of sexual assault happen months or years after the fact. Deputy Kietzman showed extreme compassion for the victim as he helped her process the shock she was experiencing having just dealt with the assault. Deputy Kietzman was later assisted by Detective Erickson who meticulously continued the investigation which ultimately led to Mr. Vert being arrested and convicted of this crime. I am very proud of the hard work done by both our office and the Chippewa County Prosecutors office, as these cases are some of the most important and difficult cases that we work on.”

“Today during the sentencing hearing, it was moving to witness the tremendous turn out of law enforcement officers and the Diane Peppler Resource Center staff in coming out to support the victim of this terrible crime. Officers from the Sault Ste. Marie Police Department, The Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, and members of the TRIDENT task force all came to stand behind a woman who was doubted by her friends and family. It is not uncommon to see how a family can be divided by the criminal actions one member on another. This just goes to show how a community can come together and amplify one quiet voice so that her voice can be heard by all” said Prosecutor Robert Stratton.

Both the Chippewa County Prosecutor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office believe it is important for everyone to know that if they are ever sexually assaulted, they can go to the hospital for a rape kit to be completed. The hospital will hold that kit for up to a year to give the victim time to decide if they want law enforcement to investigate their attacker. Having a rape kit completed only preserves the evidence and ensures the best chance of conviction if the victim decides to go forward with prosecution.

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