Prosecution ends but scars remain for Justin Hamilton

The kidnapping and beating of Justin Hamilton, a developmentally disabled man from Lakeville, shocked Minnesotans last fall. The conviction Oct. 19 of the fifth and final suspect in the case and that suspect’s Dec. 22 sentencing date may signal an end in the criminal proceedings.

But for Hamilton, the beating and torture may never go away. Family members have indicated the 25-year-old has difficulty sleeping, working or going out alone. He continues to undergo therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and other problems. Certain smells and situations can trigger anxiety. Hamilton has fetal alcohol syndrome and other disabilities, but had worked hard his whole life to overcome them. The attack last fall was a serious setback to his progress.

“His world is very small,” his mother, Carolyn Hamilton, told the Star Tribune last month. “He’s very much afraid…. He has scars that are never going to go away.”

Hamilton has not been present in court, on the advice of his doctors. Family members will speak on his behalf at the sentencing hearing Dec. 22 for Jonathan M. Diepold, 22, of Northfield.

Diepold was convicted of six violent felony crimes and a misdemeanor, following a bench trial. The convictions are for two counts of felony kidnapping, two counts of felony false imprisonment and one count each of felony aggravated robbery, felony third-degree assault and gross misdemeanor theft. Dakota County District Judge Tim Wermager presided over the case. Diepold agreed to the proceeding last summer, in which both sides submitted written evidence. Wermager also found Diepold not guilty of one count of assault in the third degree (a felony) and two counts of assault in the fourth degree (motivated by bias-both gross misdemeanors).

Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom is seeking a minimum of eight years’ imprisonment for Diepold. “We are pleased to have now convicted all the persons involved in the violent kidnapping and assault of this vulnerable victim. We will be seeking a significant prison term for Jonathan Diepold, one of the primary perpetrators involved in this violent attack.”

The judge spoke about Hamilton’s vulnerability and the emotional and well as physical harm that was committed after the sentencing.

The others involved in the two-night attack on Hamilton have already been sentenced. John Maxwell Maniglia, age 20 of Northfield, pleaded guilty to kidnapping, assault in the third degree (both felonies) and theft (a gross misdemeanor), and was sentenced to eight years in prison on June 15. Diepold and Maniglia were cited by prosecutors as the ringleaders of the attacks.

Glen Richard Ries, age 34 of Northfield, pleaded guilty to assault in the third degree (a felony) and was sentenced to three years in prison on September 28. Timothy John Ketterling, age 22 of Prior Lake, pleaded guilty to theft (a gross misdemeanor) and was sentenced to four days in jail and 80 hours of community work service on July 20.

The case against Natasha Dahn, now age 17 of Lakeville, was completed in juvenile court.

Hamilton was attacked Oct. 10 and 11, 2008, two weeks after he and Dahn became friends. She lied to the others about being hit by Hamilton. She was dating Maniglia at the time.

The group took Hamilton to a remote area in southern Dakota Country and beat, cut and burned him. He sustained two broken ribs and many other injuries in the attack. He was also robbed, and he and his family were threatened. At one point he was tied to a tree and burned with a lighter and a heated credit card. After the second beating, Hamilton was found by a passerby and taken for medical treatment.

News of the beating last fall sparked outrage as well as an outpouring of sympathy for Hamilton, and he was flooded with cards, gifts and invitations to visit sports teams and celebrities.