James Bailey received the maximum sentence of 32 years

By Chris Harris
April 10, 2017 03:21 PM
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Last week, in an upstate New York courtroom, a 23-year-old woman came face to face with the 31-year-old man who sexually abused and raped her weekly for more than four years when she was a child: Her older brother.

Before he was sentenced to 32 years on Thursday, about a month after being convicted of two felony counts of repeated sex abuse of a child, James Bailey stood in shackles just inches from his victim and younger sister, Kathryn Bailey, PEOPLE confirms.

Through tears, Kathryn delivered a heart-wrenching statement at her brother’s sentencing, opening up about the impact of his years of abuse. At times, Kathryn quivered as she struggled to express words she had spent years mulling over. But it was a word James had uttered during a police interrogation that kept coming up during her forceful speech: “Curiosity.”

It was the one-word response that James offered up to investigators when they asked him why he had abused his sister.

“It was sexual abuse, it was not curiosity,” Kathryn told James, who started victimizing his little sister when she was 9 and continued through when she was 12. At first, James refused to look at Kathryn, who asked the judge if she could order him to face her, PEOPLE confirms. No such order came, but James did abide.

(Syracuse.com posted a video of Bailey making her statement.)

Speaking to Syracuse.com, Bailey said she came forward publicly to help empower other victims of sexual abuse. “Every victim deserves to feel good about themselves,” she explained, adding she had hated herself for years after the abuse. “I came forward and now, I love the way I feel.”

According to court documents, James was a teenager when his parents entrusted him with his younger sister’s care; their mother worked long hours as a nurse, and their father’s occupation required regular travel. For years after the abuse, Kathryn suppressed her memories, never speaking about them to anyone. But in 2013, when the family disowned James for his drug abuse, she decided to come forward.

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Court officials confirm that James received the maximum sentence allowable. He had previously turned down a plea deal that would have resulted in a 13- to 15-year prison term and spared his sister from testifying at his trial.

James Bailey is appealing his conviction, claiming he was on drugs during his confession to police.

Kathryn told her brother last week she wants nothing more to do with him. A judge instituted an order of protection barring him from contacting her for the next four decades.

Before he learned he would receive the maximum sentence, Kathryn broke down the punishment for James.

“How does possibility of 32 years sound to you?” she asked. “That’s 11,680 days and 280,000 hours. I’m positive that number will matter to you.”

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Court officials confirm Kathryn told her brother she wasn’t even sure how to end her speech. “I suppose a goodbye is in order,” she said to him. “I don’t hate you. I hate what you did.”

James was offered the chance to speak, but said nothing, PEOPLE learns.

Before sentencing James, County Court Judge Stephen Dougherty called him “a despicable human being,” calling his crime the “worst” kind of offense one can commit: “Taking and destroying the innocence of a child.”

He told James he “betrayed every possible human instinct of care and devotion to a child,” court officials confirm.