The hum of the overhead lights inside Courtroom 2 at the St. Croix County Courthouse grew ever more present, perpetuated by the lengthening silence following Judge Edward Vlack's exit to finalize his sentence for Benjamin Edward Schrock, the former Hudson High School junior varsity girls soccer coach found guilty at a March jury trial of felony exposing a child to harmful material.
Upon his return, Vlack sentenced Schrock to 1 year in jail - which began at the hearing's conclusion - with mandatory sex offender registration.
Vlack assured the victim and her father none of this was their fault and then turned his attention to Schrock.
"When I hear the word mistake - give me a break. This wasn't a mistake," Vlack said. The former coach was in a position of power and he abused it, the judge continued.
Vlack also noted on two occasions that of the 16 or 17 letters written in support of Schrock, not one of them mentioned the victim.
Vlack withheld three years probation on the felony conviction and Vlack ordered a psychological and psychiatric evaluation along with a sex offender evaluation in advance of a July 1 hearing to consider expungement. Schrock is permitted to leave jail for work and treatment.
Assistant District Attorney Erica Ellenwood told the courtroom at the start of the sentencing that Schrock wasn't going to fully admit to what he'd done until he was caught.
"I think he was grooming this young girl to say what can I get away with," Ellenwood said.
The 24-year-old Hudson resident was charged in May 2018 - then 23 - with causing a child 13-18 to view sexual activity and exposing a child to harmful material after a 16-year-old victim reported to a school counselor that Schrock sent her at least one nude photo on SnapChat April 23 of that year.
"After, I didn't know who to trust," the victim said at the sentencing. "What if he said he didn't send anything? Then people would think I'm just a liar."
The jury did not reach a verdict on the charge of causing a child to view sexual activity.
Defense attorney Aaron Nelson argued that Schrock belonged in the community and needed to feel a sense of belonging to society.
"He has demonstrated he can do what Your Honor asks," Nelson said. "I appreciate people can have different opinions, but in the court of law we need evidence."
The last person to speak before Vlack exited before the sentencing was Schrock.
He said he accepted the consequences of "my mistake."
"I sincerely apologize to the victim," he said.
Vlack then returned to his chambers before returning to hand down the sentence.
"The difficulty I have - I can't take back what happened to (the victim)," Vlack said. At the end of the hearing, Schrock was taken into custody, a short wave to family as he passed.
"It's not your fault," Vlack assured the victim one more time before he left the courtroom.