A Juneau man convicted of felony first degree indecent exposure has been sentenced to serve two years in prison in a long-running abuse case.
Joshua David Burger was initially charged in April 2011 with a hundred counts of sexual abuse of a minor. They were eventually reduced to just four charges for abuse of a child within his care. But even those charges were eventually dropped and replaced with a single count of indecent exposure as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp, standing in for District Attorney Dave Brower who usually has been handling the case, referred to suppressed evidence initially obtained from a Glass warrant or recorded conversation that seemed to corroborate the victim’s statements. Without that corroborating evidence, Kemp suggested that prosecuting Burger while using only the victim’s testimony would not have assured a conviction.
“What’s going to be the impact to the victim if we go to trial, put (the victim) on the stand, and subject (the victim) to cross examination?” Kemp asked rhetorically.
Defense attorney Julie Willoughby said that suggestions of a lifetime of abuse or abuse against others were not accurate or were unsubstantiated.
“The specific offense that Mr. Burger is pleading guilty to and all of the other prior allegations occurred — if they did occur — more than five years ago,” Willoughby said. “Mr. Burger undertook some fairly remarkable efforts on his own to be a different man than the man who committed the offense that’s before the court.”
Sentencing in Juneau Superior Court was delayed on Monday morning as the 37-year old Burger suffered what appeared to be a seizure or a fainting spell in the courtroom. Emergency medicial technicians were called in to check him out and the hearing later resumed. Burger sipped a small bottle of Gatorade, but his handcuffs were removed for the rest of the hearing.
The victim’s mother commented about the disruption in her family from the abuse. She said that Burger exploited her family and other children psychologically and emotionally. She went on to explain how the victim has now discovered life after the abuse.
“His exploitation is possible because we trusted him, and we loved him, and we tried to build a life with him,” she said. “Joshua Burger is a danger and a threat to the well-being of others. He’s a sexual predator and he preys upon children.
The victim declined to comment.
Joshua Burger also declined to comment. “No, your honor,” after he was asked by Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg if he had anything to say.
Perhaps anticipating the potential community outrage of such a light sentence handed down for what initially were multiple allegations of child sexual abuse over several years, Judge Pallenberg commented at length about whether to accept the plea agreement and about being limited by the presumptive sentencing range for a first-time felon as specified in law. Any rejection of the plea agreement would also start the process for a possible trial in another six months.
“Sexual misconduct against a child is among the most fundamental breaches of what we value as human beings,” Pallenberg said.
Pallenberg suggested that – if he had the option – he would sentence Burger to a longer term. But Pallenberg was limited to the range for the crime for which Burger was convicted. Burger was formally sentenced to eight years in prison with six years suspended. Probation will be for ten years. He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Burger is prohibited from contacting the victim who is now 18 years old or anyone under the age of 16 without permission of his probation officer. He’s also prohibited from entering businesses that primarily sell or serve alcohol.