Sentencing pushed back for woman convicted of sex abuse

The sentencing for a Sterling woman found guilty of sexual abuse of a minor has been pushed to the week before Christmas.

A jury found 53-year-old Laurel Lee guilty of one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in May after a six-day trial that brought an end to a case that was nearly two years old. She had been charged on Oct. 1, 2014 with the sex abuse count, a count of kidnapping and a count of first-degree sexual assault after it was reported to Alaska State Troopers that she had pulled a then-14-year-old boy off his bike near the Sterling Highway, took him into the woods and forced oral sex on him.

She was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday at the Kenai Courthouse by Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman, but her sentencing was postponed to Dec. 20 because her defence attorney, Dina Cale, was not prepared with a sentencing memorandum.

Lee was acquitted of the kidnapping and sexual assault charges in May after more than a day of deliberation by the jury. Lee has maintained since shortly after she was charged that she was the one who was raped, not the other way around. Alaska State Troopers testified during the trial that Lee didn’t mention being attacked on the night of the incident and that when she was questioned on Oct. 1, 2014, she didn’t say anything physical had happened with the boy, only that he had come on to her from across the highway. Lee did not testify during the trial.

Cale said she was not prepared for the sentencing to go forward Wednesday because she had only just gotten back to work following an illness, and has been juggling seven unclassified trial cases this year.

“My case load has gone up, my support staff has gone down, and my trials have increased by easily threefold,” she said

Bauman pointed out that the deadline for Cale to file challenges to anything in the pre-sentence report ­— required to be turned in at least 30 days before a sentencing — had passed before her recent absence from work.

Assistant District Attorney Kelly Lawson said the family of the victim was opposed to postponing the sentencing, but did not oppose it being pushed back herself. Bauman agreed to set it for Dec. 20, saying he will not be postponing it again.

Taylor Winston from the Office of Victims Rights in Anchorage appeared via phone and opposed moving the sentencing hearing back as well, saying that spending two years on the case should have prepared Cale enough for sentencing.

“The case has already been six months pending post trial,” Winston said. “… Everybody’s busy in the system. I know your honor is busy, I know the (district attorneys) are busy, and that’s across the state. So this is a sexual offense, it has a young victim, it should be a priority.”

Lee faces a presumptive sentencing range of 5-15 years in jail. The state has proposed a sentence of 15 years in jail with seven years of suspended jail time, which Bauman clarified with Lawson Wednesday.

“My main reason for not opposing is that I, as the prosecutor, certainly don’t want to press the defense attorney that says they’re not ready, and I take Ms. Cale’s comments in good faith,” Lawson said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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