District judge rejects Sells' plea agreementA judge threw out a plea agreement Tuesday afternoon that had been negotiated for a Dunn County man accused of having sexual contact with his acquaintance’s teenage daughter.
A judge threw out a plea agreement Tuesday afternoon that had been negotiated for a Dunn County man accused of having sexual contact with his acquaintance’s teenage daughter.
“My sentence would be that this gentleman serve at least 10 years in the state penitentiary and then serve 10 years of supervised probation,” Judge H. Patrick Weir said at what was supposed to be a sentencing at the Stark County Courthouse.
Weir cited Sells’ “long and violent criminal history” as a reason for denying the plea agreement.
Sells is charged with gross sexual imposition, a felony, and faces up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for sexual contact with the 14-year-old girl in 2009.
Weir said Sells has not shown much remorse for his actions.
“To me, the sentence is not in accord with what justice requires in this case,” Weir said.
The plea agreement proposed would have Sells serve five years in prison and five years supervised probation.
Sells pleaded guilty in January as part of the proposed plea agreement, but withdrew the plea after the judge’s decision.
North Dakota Parole and Probation conducted the presentence investigation and recommended 20 years in prison with 15 years suspended and 15 years supervised probation.
However, attorneys at the hearing said sex offenders can’t be sentenced to probation for more then 10 years, according to North Dakota law.
“We teeter on a pretty tight line there between trying to rehabilitate and supervise and simply setting an individual up for failure,” said Jay Greenwood, Sells’ attorney. “Fifteen years is a lot of time for even the most straight-and-narrow person to stay out of complete trouble.”
Ross Sundeen, Dunn County state’s attorney also disagreed with the recommendation.
“I can’t help but think that perhaps the investigator was persuaded, maybe by the emotion of the victim’s parents,” he said.
The matter will be scheduled for a pretrial conference and trial, Weir said.
Paula Johnson, the teen’s mother, was arrested in connection to the incident for allegedly allowing Sells to remain in her home and have unsupervised contact with her daughter after she was aware of the sexual contact between them.
Johnson was given two years unsupervised probation for contributing to the delinquency or deprivation of a minor.
Sundeen said the teen was placed in her father’s custody in a different county shortly after authorities learned of the incident.
Sundeen was unavailable and Greenwood declined comment after the hearing.