In an improvised courtroom assembled Friday at a hospital in Winfield, a former suburban karate instructor who was paralyzed in a jail accident admitted guilt to sex crimes against two teenage girls.
Dean C. Fuerstenberg, 45, has been a patient at the Central DuPage Hospital since he was injured in a fall that took place just before Thanksgiving while he was in custody at the DuPage County jail, his attorney, Perry Thompson, said. The fall has left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down, the attorney said.
At the time of the accident, Fuerstenberg was awaiting trial on charges in both DuPage and Kane counties. He was accused of the sexual assaults of two teenage girls to whom he taught karate at studios in Roselle and South Elgin.
Friday, he admitted guilt to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault – two in Kane County and one in DuPage County. He was sentenced to 15 years on the Kane charges and then, minutes later, to a concurrent 10-year term in DuPage in an unusual plea arrangement that involved gathering judges and prosecutors, as well as support staff, from both counties.
Hospital personnel wheeled Fuerstenberg, who was partially reclined in a hospital bed, into a conference room where Judge James Hallock of Kane and Judge Blanche Hill Fawell of DuPage were seated side by side at folding tables.
Prosecutors Pam Monaco and Louisa Nuckolls outlined the allegations against Fuerstenberg. He was charged with engaging in sexual contact with two teenage girls between 2003 and 2005 when he was their karate instructor.
One of the girls began studying with Fuerstenberg at 9, Nuckolls said, but the relationship strayed to illicit acts by the time she was 12 and lasted for several years. He eventually confessed to the victims' mothers, calling one around Thanksgiving 2005 on the phone, the prosecutor said.
"He said he was a very sick man," Nuckolls said.
Fuerstenberg answered the standard questions that judges ask during negotiated pleas to ensure defendants are aware of what is taking place. Judge Fawell then asked Fuerstenberg why he was in the hospital.
"I've fallen and I broke my neck," he said.
Authorities at the hearing were unable to provide additional details of the incident during which Fuerstenberg was injured, and a call to the DuPage County sheriff's office seeking additional information was not returned.
Authorities listed Fuerstenberg's most recent address as being in Eden Prairie, Minn.
Fuerstenberg must serve 85 percent of his 15 year sentence. He received credit for more than 900 days he has spent in custody.