Dennis Michael Nona Photo: Getty Images
A leading indigenous artist in prison for raping and sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl has been assaulted three times while in custody, a court has heard.
Dennis Michael Nona, 40, was found guilty last year of crimes against the young girl at her family home in the 1990s.
In one attack, Nona pinned the girl down and threatened to hurt her or kill her family if she told anyone.
He was found guilty of nine offences against the girl, including sexual intercourse without consent and acts of indecency.
Nona was studying at the Australian National University when the crimes occurred, the court heard.
The Torres Strait Islander was a highly-regarded indigenous artist, who was born on Badu Island, north of Queensland.
He had works exhibited in leading galleries across Australia and the world, and won numerous prizes, including the $40,000 Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander award for his sculpture of a crocodile with a man on its back.
Nona appeared in the ACT Supreme Court for a sentencing hearing on Monday.
The court heard he has been assaulted three times in prison, but never made a complaint because of fears for his safety.
He has already been in custody for more than 18 months, and his barrister submitted that he be sentenced to time served, or time served and an additional term of weekend detention.
The court also heard evidence from Nona's partner, who said Nona was a "very caring, loving, and supportive father".
Nona's barrister also criticised the 15-year delay between the commencement of the police investigation and the trial, saying if the Australian Federal Police had properly discharged their duty, the offender would have already served his time.
But the Crown said the court must make it clear to Nona that if he yielded to his impulses towards children, he would be severely punished.
The Crown said Nona's crimes were made more serious because they were a series of repeated offences of a similar nature.
The abuse also represented a breach of trust, the court heard.
Nona will be sentenced later this month.