For sexually preying on a 16-year-old girl for months, then claiming she victimized him, an East Peoria man was sentenced to 28 years in prison Tuesday night.

Robert Rogers, 60, told new stories that he said proved his innocence even after a jury convicted him in late September of forcing sex on the girl who, with her mother, he took into his home. He threatened to evict them if she didn’t meet his sexual demands.

Rogers told his jury he just wanted to be the father the girl never had, but she, at knifepoint, demanded his help in having a baby. 

“Consider that story,” Rogers’ judge said, noting the girl and her mother had recently spent the summer of 2017 living in their car and washing in gas stations.

“Then he said he was framed” by the girl and her mother, said Tazewell County Circuit Judge Michael Risinger. 

In imposing the sentence, Risinger cited Rogers’ lack of remorse, continued claims of innocence and his efforts, revealed in the lengthy sentence hearing, to contact the girl from jail and get a roommate to lie in his favor in the hearing.

Rogers, who told Risinger he didn’t want to die behind bars, gaped speechless as he listened to the sentences for his four convictions that, with time reductions, will imprison him for about 22 years.

Then he covered his bowed head with his hands and twice muttered, “Sorry, judge.”

Two years short of the maximum punishment available, the sentence was the kind requested by Rogers’ prosecutor and his victim, whose statement was read by the foster mother now caring for her.

Rogers stole her virginity, the petite girl, now 17, wrote. “I feel like I lost who I am and I can’t get her back.” While counseling helps, “I felt angry and dirty, and sometimes I still feel that way.”

“I tell her this doesn’t have to destroy her,” her foster mother said.

Rogers began his assaults shortly after the girl and her mother, who had considered him a friend, moved in October 2017 into his Kenwood Street home, where another man also lived. The assaults ended last May after an acquaintance of the girl learned of sexual and threatening online messages Rogers had sent to her and contacted police.

Risinger sentenced Rogers to 24 years on three counts of criminal sexual assault while in a supervising role of a minor and four years on one of promoting juvenile prostitution. He had offered to pay the girl to have sex with his roommate.