By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
Judge Mark Smith granted a deferred judgement request from a 33-year-old man who pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old he met online.
Jason Petersen’s defense attorney Les Blair told the court Thursday that when his client first met the 14-year-old victim online, he believed her to be 19. Petersen said he was told she was 19 and then later learned she was 14. Even after learning her true age, Petersen had a relationship with her through the end of November 2011.
“That is not an excuse, but it is an explanation,” Blair said.
Third-degree sex abuse is a Class C felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. County Attorney Mike Wolf recommended a suspended sentence, rather than a deferred judgement. He said he had a hard time getting over the age difference. However, Blair felt that a deferred judgment was more appropriate.
“My client does not have a significant history. He does not have a history of this type of offense,” Blair said. He added that his client is not attracted to children.
Petersen expressed sorrow at what he had done. He said he was sorry if he caused the victim psychological damage.
Smith granted a three-year deferred judgment, with the stipulation that Petersen completes the sex abuse program and refrains from going on any social websites during his probation. Petersen must also complete a substance abuse evaluation and treatment. A $1,000 civil penalty was suspended. Petersen was ordered to pay court costs and attorney fees, but may complete community service instead.