COOK COUNTY CRIMINAL COURTHOUSE — A woman who survived an attack from Marc Winner — the former West Loop tanning salon owner convicted of rape — said other women are now “finally safe.”
Winner was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Tuesday for sexual assault and sexual abuse, and he’s facing charges in a second case. Officials have said Winner was a “serial rapist” who possibly raped nine women over 16 years, with the first attack coming in 2001, when Lesley Barton said Winner violently assaulted her.
“Seeing him … coming here, it was a bit unsettling,” Barton said after the sentencing hearing. But “I knew there was nothing he could say to me. None of us have done anything wrong. The only one that’s totally and completely at fault is the predator that preys, period.”
Barton, living in the suburbs during the attack, told the court during the hearing that Winner “brutally strangled and raped” her in Glenview. She tried to tell him to stop, but he choked her to the point she couldn’t speak. The next morning, she was left with bruises from his fingerprints on her throat. She suffered from PTSD.
Winner went on to attack more women over the years, prosecutors have said: He used drugs and alcohol to “weaken” women, then strangled them, pushed them, held them down, bit them and assaulted them. His recent conviction came from a 2009 assault of a woman who had worked for him at his tanning salon.
Barton said she is grateful Winner’s conviction and sentence means he is “no longer wandering the streets, looking for prey and destroying lives.”
Winner had a chance to stop when he attacked Barton in 2001, she said; He was convicted of battery in that case. Instead, Winner moved from the suburbs to Chicago and continued to abuse women over the years, with Barton only learning of the assaults from DNAinfo Chicago when Winner was charged in a different rape case.
Barton feels a “sense of responsibility” because she wasn’t able to stop Winner, though she knows it was not her fault Winner attacked other women, she said.
“The only person here to blame, to shame, the only person here that is responsible for all of this destruction is him,” Barton said. “He had a chance, but he couldn’t stop. He’s a predator, and a very violent one, at that.”
Barton, who became a survivor activist after the attack, said she hopes she’ll be able to connect with the other women who were assaulted by Winner.
“My door is open. My phone is always on,” Barton said. “Any survivor — and I mean any survivor, male or female — that needs to talk to someone, that needs to know that they have nothing to be shamed, blamed, stigmatized [for] and that they’re believed, all they have to do is reach out and I’ll be there.”
Barton hopes Winner can be rehabilitated, she said, but she doesn’t think he’s shown signs that will be possible. During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Winner told the judge he was an innocent man.
But Winner’s plea came too late, and he was escorted from the room. It was exactly 17 years and 16 days since Barton was attacked.
“Finally,” Barton said. “Justice has been served.”