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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Birdno gets life plus 100 years

  • Birdno was sentenced to life plus 100 years in prison for five counts of statutory sodomy.
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  • Jason Birdno's attorney knew it ahead of time.
    "Today is going to be a tough day," Gillis Leonard, Bridno's defense lawyer, said before proceedings began at Mexico in Audrain County Monday afternoon. "It's easy to walk off the field after you hit a home run, but not when you ground out with a runner on third."
    And he wasn't kidding.
    Birdno was sentenced to life plus 100 years in prison for five counts of statutory sodomy.
    Birdno had visibly changed in appearance since his last public appearance in March. He has grown a beard and has lost significant weight compared to his appearance two months ago, when Judge Wes Dalton found him guilty. Since then, the Monroe City man has been sitting in the Audrain County Jail in Mexico waiting to hear his fate.
    That very time approached Monday afternoon.
    Leonard submitted motions for acquittal and a new trial. He claimed the victim's mother was coaching her from the pews of the courtroom and live tweeting by the Courier-Post during the trial exposed witnesses excluded from the courtroom to "significant testimony." Gillis explained his reasoning was the "law hasn't caught up with technology."
    Dalton denied the motions and moved on.
    Victim impact statements followed and the entire time, Birdno sat expressionless staring at notes on the defense table.
    Tanjie Hoover, the victim's mother, spoke first.
    "I must do this as part of my healing process," Hoover said. "It took me a long time to write this letter. This is for me."
    Hoover's face turned red from emotion as tears fell from her eyes. She took moments to pause and sniffle as she read out loud to the court.
    "She cannot even fathom a relationship with a boy. You have taken (her) innocence," Hoover said. "I hope you are never free again. You are sick. You have robbed your sons of their sister. You are going straight to hell unless you make it right."
    Hoover, who repeatedly asked Birdno to stop lying and tell the truth, also addressed Birdno's wife, who was not present.
    "I hope someday you can look into yourself," Hoover said, for the sake of one day having a renewed relationship with Birdno's wife. "We will welcome you into our lives with open arms. My daughter is an amazingly brave and beautiful young lady. Instead you chose to believe Jason's lies."
    Birdno's family members displayed anger after Hoover's emotional address, but tears and shock replaced their demeanor when the victim read her statement.
    "Why did you do it? Why me? I just wished you could've loved me like a normal dad would," she said. "I learned so much from you. Why can't you just be my dad? Why?"
    Page 2 of 2 - She continued saying she hoped he would one day walk her down the aisle in her wedding or share tears as she departed for college.
    "I'm sorry I told," she said to Birdno. "I'm asking for a life without my dad. Let my dad sit in jail where people who have done less go."
    Birdno's wife was also addressed in this statement. Despite being a step-mother, the 14-year-old on the stand addressed her as "mom."
    "I do wish you would love me again because I want my mother back," she said. "I just want you back as my mom, not as my dad's wife."
    Sentencing was too much to handle for Birdno's sister and niece. Moments after Dalton sentenced Birdno to four 25-year sentences and one life sentence, the two left the courtroom red-faced and crying.
    "I just think it's a huge miscarriage of justice," Birdno's sister, who did not wish to be identified, said. "I think the victim impact statement that (the victim) read was written by Tanjie Hoover. I think that the judge was very cruel in saying that his sentence was going to be short and sweet."
    "Uncle Jay would be the man who would walk me down the aisle, if it wasn't for my dad," Megan Hester, Birdno's niece added.
    Birdno's brother, John Birdno, was clearly angry following the hearing.
    "Small town (expletive) mentality, small town court," John Birdno said. "That's exactly what it is."
    John Birdno says he knows the truth and should've been called as a witness.
    "It's heartbreaking. It's absolute nonsense," John Birdno said. "I know the alleged victim's mother, I known her since she was 16-years-old."
    John Birdno went on to say he heard and witnessed several conversations that were used against his brother in court.
    "He (Jason) has been nothing but a standup man, he's the best father I can imagine," John Birdno said.
    Before departing the courthouse, Leonard told Birdno's family Jason is taking everything the way anyone would expect him to.
    When asked about his client's demeanor before departing, Leonard described Jason Birdno as an "innocent man who's been wrongfully convicted."

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