Accused sex offender changes plea

Joshua Burger and Julie Willoughby

Joshua David Burger pushes in his chair and casts an eye toward the exit of a now-emptied courtroom after his change of plea hearing in Juneau Superior Court on Thursday. His attorney Julie Willoughby is on the right. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

Joshua David Burger entered a guilty plea to a single count of felony first degree indecent exposure on Thursday morning. It signals the possible end of a long-running sex abuse case that started over a year ago.

Prosecutors in May of last year initially charged the 37-year old Juneau man with a hundred counts of a sexual abuse of a minor. That was for alleged abuse over an eight year period. Those charges were later dismissed and prosecutors then charged Burger with four counts of sexual abuse of a minor or attempted abuse of a minor.

Burger did not provide any comment aside from responding to the usual change of plea inquiry from Superior Court Judge Phil Pallenberg.

Those charges were dropped as part of a plea and sentence agreement.

Burger could be sentenced to an eight-year prison term with six years suspended, or two years to serve. Probation will be ten years and he’ll be required to register as a sex offender for fifteen years.

Burger attended the hearing dressed in a dark business suit. He was ordered to report to Lemon Creek Correctional Center to await formal sentencing that was scheduled for November 16th.

The maximum sentence for indecent exposure is 99-years in prison and a $50,000 fine. But Burger would likely fit into the presumptive range of two- to twelve-years as a first-time felon.

Judge Pallenberg did not give any indication whether he planned to accept or deny the plea and sentence agreement.

Before the hearing got underway Thursday morning, friends of the victim and other supporters directed epithets and inappropriate comments at Burger and his mother as they entered the full courtroom for the first time.

Minutes later, two Juneau Police Officers arrived and positioned themselves at both ends of the courtroom gallery. Judge Pallenberg said he recognized that such cases usually bring up strong emotions, but he would not tolerate any outbursts. He warned that anyone disrupting proceedings would be taken into custody by officers.

The judge’s admonition and the officers’ presence seemed to have an impact. Observers remained quiet and respectful, at least while in the courtroom during the hearing.

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