Once-prominent Soldotna businessman Joe Rogers was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday at the Kenai Courthouse.
Rogers received eight years with six suspended for each of four counts of indecent exposure, three years with two suspended for attempted sexual abuse of a minor and three years with three suspended for coercion. He will serve five consecutive years in prison.
Judge Anna Moran said she recognized Rogers does not have a criminal past and the incident occurred several years ago with no further offenses, but his conduct was not minor.
“Mr. Rogers presents good prospects for rehabilitation, but the court recognizes the serious nature of the charges, the need to deter himself and others and community condemnation of this conduct,” she said.
Rogers is subject to 10 years of probation, payment of an undetermined amount of restitution, registration as a sex offender, approval of post-incarceration residence and enrollment and completion of a sexual treatment program, among other conditions. He also cannot contact the victim without written request from the victim and approval by his probation officer.
The state’s burden of proof sometimes seems harsh to victims, Moran said.
“I think the nature of these crimes shows the insidious nature of these types of offenses, especially when committed within the family unit,” she said. “Sometimes these crimes are buried under a happy façade.”
The case stemmed from Rogers' abuse of a 13-year-old girl during a period of four months in 2005 and 2006.
In early October 2011, Rogers was found guilty of seven of eight charges. They included one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, one count of second-degree attempted sexual abuse of a minor, four counts of first-degree indecent exposure and one count of coercion.
The aforementioned sexual abuse charge was dropped by a motion for judgment of acquittal; generally granted if a judge reviews the state’s evidence and finds that no jurors could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge is obligated by law to enter a verdict of not guilty, Andy Pevehouse, defense attorney, said in an email.
However, the judge said evidence on the charge of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor revealed the defendant actually touched the genital area of the victim for several minutes.
“He could’ve been convicted of the more serious charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree,” she said before imposing the court’s sentence.
The victim’s mother spoke to the court before the sentencing. The clear message was the victim is punished more than the abuser, who often receives a penalty disproportionate to the crime, she said.
“You let a pillar of the community off with a slap on the wrist and you’re sending a message that if you ... have any status in this community you can sexually abuse a child and get away with it,” she said.
Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at email@example.com.