CHIPPEWA FALLS — An Eau Claire man who sexually touched an 11-year-old girl in 2017 was sentenced Monday to serve a 45-day jail sentence.
Nicholas R. Hibbler, 39, pleaded no contest to fourth-degree sexual assault in Chippewa County Court. Judge Steve Gibbs also placed Hibbler on probation for two years, ordered alcohol treatment and a sex offender risk assessment. Gibbs ordered an additional 45 days in jail, but made that imposed and stayed.
Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell told Gibbs that there were multiple touching incidents on Jan. 29, 2017.
“He clearly seems to have alcohol issues,” Newell said. “The day this happened, he was falling down drunk.”
Hibbler also was already convicted of his third drunken driving offense, which was tied to this incident, Newell added.
The victim didn’t appear in court, but the girl’s mother requested jail time and that Hibbler register as a sex offender. The woman noted her daughter is now 14 and is still haunted by the assault.
“She does ask about him quite a bit,” the woman told Gibbs. “She was angry for a long time, so that’s why I put her in counseling.”
Prior to sentencing, Hibbler turned and looked at the woman and apologized.
“I am sorry for what happened, and the damage I caused,” Hibbler said. “It was stupid drunkenness.”
Defense attorney Fran Rivard said he wasn’t sure the touching was “an intentional act,” but said it wasn’t worth the risk of losing at trial, which was slated to begin Monday.
“Mr. Hibbler understands his behavior was unacceptable,” Rivard said. “He is terribly sorry for that.”
Gibbs agreed that alcohol was a key factor.
“Alcohol is a reason, but it’s not an excuse,” Gibbs told Hibbler. “You are not one of those people who can get drunk, and not have bad things happen.”
Gibbs stressed his anger that the touching involved a minor.
“It shows a real lack of judgment,” Gibbs said. “You are getting too old for this, too old to be coming back to court.”
Gibbs allowed Hibbler to delay beginning his jail sentence for up to 30 days. He did allow Hibbler to have Huber work-release privileges.