BOISE, Idaho — Toward the end of Marty Peterson’s sentencing hearing, after 4th District Court Judge Lynn Norton told him he would have to register as a sex offender, his attorney asked the judge if terms of Peterson’s probation would affect his housing situation, since his Meridian home is next door to a house with children inside, the Idaho Press reports.
“Yeah,” Norton said. “He may have to move. He cannot be within 100 feet of children under 18.”
“Your honor,” Peterson, 77, asked, “is this something I can discuss with my probation officer?”
Norton replied that no, it was not, and she pointed out that she could have sentenced him to serve the sentence prosecutors asked for instead — three fixed years in prison, with another seven possible after that. She suspended that sentence in favor of 10 years of supervised probation, as well as 90 days in jail, with two suspended. If Peterson fails probation, he could face the prison sentence.
Peterson, a longtime political figure in Idaho, who formerly served as the state’s budget director, was arrested in October on suspicion of sexual exploitation of a child; police and prosecutors say he accessed online child pornography. In December, prosecutors added 11 more counts, for a total of 14 counts. In January, he pleaded guilty to two of them.
Katelyn Farley, the case’s prosecutor, on Thursday pointed out that Peterson had spent “years of viewing children being tortured, raped and molested.” She said he accessed websites and viewed pictures of children ages 10 to 12. All told, she said, the case involved about 6,000 images over the course of roughly four years.
“He indicated he looked at these images every day for over four years and if you do the math, he chose to commit this crime over 1,400 times,” Farley said.
While Peterson wasn’t charged with having any contact with children, Farley said she still believed he posed a risk to the community. Peterson indicated he knew he was contributing to the black market for child pornography every time he accessed the images, Farley said — and yet he still chose to do so.
“These weren’t imaginary children, they weren’t dolls,” Farley said. “These were children with dreams … and goals.”
David Leroy, Peterson’s defense attorney, pointed out the 77-year-old had spent the vast majority of his life not just obeying the laws of the state of Idaho, but contributing to the state itself.
He served on the staff of U.S. Sen. Frank Church of Idaho and as the state’s budget director under Govs. John Evans and Cecil Andrus, as well as on the transition team for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. More recently, Peterson served as the president for the Foundation for Idaho History.
Peterson’s accomplishments, Leroy said, “certainly should show the court … the nobility of his character outside this deviance which he has freely admitted later in life.”
He had no felonies or misdemeanors, and had had four traffic tickets in 20 years, Leroy said. Leroy also pointed out Peterson didn’t download the images or send them to anyone else — he clicked through them.
Peterson’s address to the court was brief. He mentioned the 60 years he spent in public service, and said he hoped he could regain, at least in part, some of the public trust he’d lost. The last nine months, he said, had been more horrific than anything he’d endured before.
“I want to apologize to my family, my friends, the public and the justice system for my actions,” he said.
He didn’t mention the children in the images.
Norton didn’t parse words when handing down her sentence.
“To the extent you may be embarrassed and humiliated, it’s nothing compared to the trauma victims that these photographs depicted … because every single one of these girls were victims,” Norton said.
The requirement to stay at least 100 feet from children younger than 18 was just one of the terms of the probation she sentenced him to. He’d violate probation by having contact with a child via text or messaging, or by passing a message through a third party. If he wanted to attend an event or go to a gathering where he might be around children, he would need the permission of his parole officer, she said.
“This is for the protection of the community, it’s not for your convenience,” she said.
Toward the end of the hearing, she said: “This is one of those cases where you look at people and go, ‘People are really complex,’ because good people can do very bad things, and very bad people can do good things. And I don’t know which camp you fall into.”
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