Fairbanks man sentenced to 19 years for sex assault

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A 20-year-old Fairbanks man convicted of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl last April was sentenced Tuesday to serve 19 years in prison.

''I fear for your future, I fear for the safety of a community where you're at large,'' said Superior Court Judge Ralph Beistline to Joseph Thunderhawk as he handed down the prison term.

Thunderhawk was sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison with 12 of those years suspended, as well as 10 years probation.

The charges against Thunderhawk stemmed from an incident at a Fairbanks residence April 30.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim was left alone with Thunderhawk while three other acquaintances went into town. The victim told investigators Thunderhawk had an 8-inch-knife and threatened to cut her with it if she didn't have sex with him.

The girl told jurors Thunderhawk sexually assaulted her several times. She fled the residence when Thunderhawk fell asleep. The girl told her friends about the assault when they returned. According to the complaint, Thunderhawk ran when they began to question him and surrendered to police shortly afterward.

In an October jury trial he was found guilty of assault and sexual assault.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Teresa Foster asked for a prison sentence of 23 years, arguing that Thunderhawk's assaulting the woman, then taking a break before assaulting her again, made the offense an especially serious one.

Foster also noted that Thunderhawk, despite his young age, already had a criminal history and was on probation at the time of the incident.

According to court records, since turning 18 Thunderhawk has been convicted of attempted vehicle theft, fourth-degree assault, fourth-degree theft and second-degree burglary.

''He was on probation when this happened, and he wasn't doing very well on probation,'' Foster said.

Defense attorney Lori Bodwell argued that Thunderhawk's actions the night of the assault were not as deliberate as Foster made them out to be, noting that he had been intoxicated at the time.

''The prosecutor made it out as though it was a sober, well-thought out plan,'' she said. ''It seems to be, if anything, just a crime of opportunity more than anything else.''

Bodwell argued for a sentence of 16-17 years.

Beistline said he was troubled by Thunderhawk's seeming indifference regarding the crime.

''I don't think you have even begun to understand the damage you inflicted on this young lady,'' Beistline said. ''You don't have any remorse.''

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