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Second of three TH brothers sentenced in child sex abuse case

A 19-year-old Two Harbors man who pled guilty to four counts of fifth degree criminal sexual conduct against a child under 10 was sentenced to probation and community service Monday.

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Originally charged with a felony, his plea agreement reduced the four charges to gross misdemeanors. His sentencing by Sixth District Judge Mark Munger will be followed by that of his twin brother, who initially pled not guilty to felony criminal sexual conduct charges last May before entering into a plea agreement last month.

The twin, according to court documents, petitioned to enter a guilty plea just weeks before he was scheduled to stand trial. He too also pled guilty to four counts of fifth degree criminal sexual conduct and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 10.

A younger brother, still a juvenile, pled guilty to first degree criminal sexual contact and was sentenced in August. Both men and the juvenile sexually abused the same victim. The Lake County News-Chronicle does not disclose the identity of victims of sex crimes. Because of the relationship of the parties, none can be named without identifying the victim.

The cases against the two older perpetrators have been handled as extended-jurisdiction juvenile cases, or EJJ, a provision in the law that allows some cases involving serious, violent or chronic offenders to be handled in the juvenile court system.

Lake County Attorney Laura Auron said that the older brothers’ cases are unique in that each committed the crimes when they were juveniles, but came of age before charges were filed, presenting prosecutors and the court with a challenge. In cases in which juveniles-turned-adults have no previous record of criminal behavior, certifying and charging them in adult court can be difficult. EJJ can help bridge the gap.

“This set of facts is (an example of the) reason for EJJ,” she said, adding that the perpetrator still receives an adult sentence that can be imposed if he does not comply with the conditions of probation.

In a powerful victim witness statement, the victim’s father recounted the numerous ways in which he had helped and supported the perpetrator, saying that he trusted him to protect the child who the perpetrator ultimately admitted to sexually abusing on numerous occasions.

“(He) was my favorite… and I was proud of him,” the father said. “I couldn’t believe that any of the boys … could betray my trust.”

As the father read the statement, the perpetrator and his parents showed little emotion. The perpetrator’s parents did, however, ask to address the court. Their request was denied by Munger.

In his statement to the court, the perpetrator defended his parents, doled out thinly veiled criticism of the victim’s mother for her anger, and took the Lake County News-Chronicle to task for its coverage of the case, calling it “sensationalist journalism.” He said that everyone involved in the case had suffered; all had been victims, and later reeled off a list of his own attributes, including that he is a “loyal friend, good son and a Christian,” has “never tasted alcohol,” doesn’t use profanity and that he believes in helping others.

Among many conditions of probation, the perpetrator will be expected to complete 100 hours of community service, have no contact with the victim or the victim’s family, register as a sex offender and comply with its requirements, provide a DNA sample and comply with all conditions of probation until age 21.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa B. Hanson asked that the court add another condition; no unsupervised contact with young women or girls under age 16. Asked how the conditions of probation are enforced to protect the community, Auron said sex offender registration requires a perpetrator to notify probation of a change of address and that public records and hearings in cases make it possible for the community to stay abreast of those who may pose a risk to public safety.