District Attorney Greg Willis announced that 44-year-old Behailu Birkie of Plano, Texas, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after the jury found him guilty of three charges of Sexual Assault of a Child. “This victim endured sexual abuse from Birkie not just in our county, but in another state and another country for almost 10 years. We are grateful that this jury returned a maximum sentence,” stated Willis after sentencing.
Birkie was an adult who was known by and had ongoing access to the victim. He sexually abused the victim over the course of 10 years, starting when the victim was 11 years old and living in Ethiopia. The abuse continued when the victim moved to Plano, Texas, where she lived from the age of 15 to 18. The abuse continued until she turned 21, but was living in Tampa, Florida by that time. The victim disclosed the abuse to medical personnel in Tampa when she was 21. The abuse was then reported to the Tampa Police Department.
Tampa Police Department Detective Kevin McNiff investigated the case. After interviewing the victim, Detective McNiff contacted Plano Police Department to report the additional abuse that occurred in Plano, Texas. Plano Police Department Detective Chris Jones interviewed the victim, who disclosed additional details of abuse.
Sexual assault of a child is a second degree felony, carrying a range of punishment from 2 to 20 years in prison. The jury found Birkie guilty of all three charges and then assessed punishment at 20 years in prison for each charge. For this type of offense, a judge has the discretion to “stack” sentences. Meaning that the judge could determine that a sentence run consecutively, in other words, not begin until the first sentence ends.
Judge Richard Davis presided over the case. After the jury’s verdict, the State asked that the sentences run consecutively. Judge Davis determined that two of the 20-year sentences would run concurrently, but that the third 20-year sentence would run consecutively (not begin until Birkie had served the other two concurrent sentences). Thus 20 + 20 = 40 year sentence total.
Assistant Criminal District Attorneys Alex Oestreich and Nicola Hines prosecuted the case, assisted by District Attorney Investigator Greg Bowers, Victim Assistance Coordinator Melissa White, and Legal Secretary Ramnpreet Kaur.