Accusers may get man life in prison

COLUMBIA --- At his 2007 rape trial, two teenage South Carolina girls described how a convicted sex offender plucked them from their bedroom and led them to a chilly underground dungeon.

The pair said Kenneth Glenn Hinson took them one by one to the room beneath a tool shed, where he took turns raping them, then bound them with duct tape and left them to die.

The state's attorney general personally prosecuted the case, but Mr. Hinson was acquitted. Jurors didn't believe the girls' testimony, viewed by some as shaky at best, and Mr. Hinson said consensual sex with the girls explained the DNA found on their clothes.

Now, nearly a year and a halflater, the girls are getting another shot at putting Mr. Hinson behind bars for life, something he says is all part of a political power play.

The day of his acquittal, Mr. Hinson -- who served nine years in prison for the 1991 rape of a 12-year-old girl -- was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had been found with a 9 mm pistol on him at the time of his arrest.

In November, it took a jury just five minutes to find Mr. Hinson guilty on that charge, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

On Friday, a federal judge is to hear testimony over what Mr. Hinson's sentence should be -- including statements from the girls who accused him of rape.

"Hinson's victims will be present at his sentencing hearing and will testify as to their many years of abuse," prosecutor Rose Mary Parham wrote in a motion filed Wednesday, asking a federal judge to consider the maximum sentence. "The Government respectfully requests that this Court sentence Hinson to life imprisonment because no less term adequately punishes Hinson for the instant offense and protects the public, including his past victims, from his malicious wrath," Ms. Parham concluded.

Even though Mr. Hinson was acquitted of the rape charges in state court, federal prosecutors say they can use testimony from his accusers because he has never been tried on those charges in federal courts.