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Matthew English, the 25-year-old son of a local daycare owner, was convicted Wednesday in district court of molesting two young girls who were in the care of his mother.
For the two separate incidents, English was sentenced to four years in prison. He could have received six years plus a year — the added year for having committed a prior offense in California — but prosecutor Kent Wahlquist and English’s public defender, Scott Riedel, worked out a plea agreement that took into account that English had already spent 22 months in jail for his crimes. He was arrested in July 2012.
The plea was also arrived at because Wahlquist thought it best to spare English’s victims a trial.
“It wasn’t because one count was weaker than the other, or anything like that, it was because I was reluctant to drag two young girls — I believe they are 8 or 9 now — into court and have them describe to 12 adults what the defendant did to them,” he said to Judge Sheri Raphaelson, the judge presiding over the case.
According to court documents, in each separate incident, English inappropriately touched the girls for a short period of time before they told him to stop.
English also got a plea deal because none of the incidents involved force. Both of the girls apparently found their way into English’s presence on their own. One laid down on English’s bed because she was tired and the other climbed into his lap because she was curious about a video game he was playing in the daycare’s playroom.
Both incidents came to light when the children told their mothers what happened to them.
In the interview leading up to his arrest last year, English told police that many times he has had sexual thoughts and urges about the girls at the daycare but tried not to act on his urges. He also told police that he believes his urges came from watching pornographic movies involving teens.
During the sentencing, both the girls’ mothers pleaded with the judge to give him the maximum seven years.
One mother described how shortly after the incidents her daughter’s personality changed dramatically. According to the mother, she started having frequent temper tantrums and act out in other ways.
“I’m still nervous about leaving my kids alone with a new babysitter,” she said, adding that the lack of trust also affected her search for employment. “As I was applying for jobs I found I could not accept positions where my kids needed to be watched by a babysitter.”
She said she and her kids eventually ended up temporarily in a homeless shelter as a result.
The other mother wondered to the judge how the incident was going to affect her daughter’s future.
“I don’t know if in the long term she’s going to have issues, but I do know this is always going to be in her head,” she said. “I would never want this to happen to anybody else’s children.”
Though there was a plea agreement, Riedel as well as English’s parents pled with the judge to keep him out of jail and release him into supervised probation instead. They both said he’d be better served in an outside treatment program.
“I’d ask you to consider that he’s going on a straight two years of incarceration for these charges,” Riedel said to the judge. He also added that given the nature of his crimes and what other prisoners generally feel about people who commit crimes against children, English would be in considerable danger.
“Given Matthew’s personality and that sort of thing, the penitentiary and the population there would be extremely detrimental to him,” Riedel said.
English’s mother told Raphaelson that if she were to release him into an outside treatment program, a local group of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were working with him were ready to provide him support.
“I don’t feel the system would be doing justice to him, or the community. He’d be better off outside where he could continue with the progress he’s been making,” she said in court.
In the end however, it was the judge who had the last word.
While she appreciated English’s cooperation with authorities during the investigation, and English’s apology to the victim’s mothers, she decided to incarcerate English in accordance with the plea agreement.
“While I know you weren’t intending to ruin the lives of these two girls, that’s exactly what happened,” Raphaelson said. “My job is to figure out how to protect the community from these acts, as well as protecting the community from you committing these acts. The way I see it, there are two ways I could to do that.
“One, is by removing you from the community, or, sending you to treatment with the goal of correct the problem so you would voluntarily not commit these acts. Sending you to treatment carries the risk that it may or not work. Removing you from the community guarantees the community will be protected from further acts.”