ELKO – A former Elko man charged with sexual assault of a child was placed on probation Wednesday in district court.
Sean R. Sandhoff, 41, was arrested Aug. 3 on eight charges that included luring a child through the use of a computer, lewdness with a child under 14 years of age, and unlawful contact with a minor.
In a plea agreement, Sandhoff pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse of a child, a category B felony.
Sandhoff was given a suspended sentence by Elko District Judge Nancy Porter of 19 to 48 months in prison on each count to be served consecutively, an aggregate of 38 to 96 months in prison. He was then placed on probation for five years and ordered to register as a sex offender in the jurisdiction where he resides. Sandhoff now lives in Utah.
Court documents said the 12-year-old relative of Sandhoff told investigators she was contacted by him after she posted a comment on Facebook that expressed feeling self-conscious about her looks. The text messages went on to be more sexually explicit and were followed by inappropriate touching and conversations.
At the start of the sentencing hearing, Porter said the state division of parole and probation recommended the sentence be suspended and the defendant given probation based on a psychosexual evaluation that said Sandhoff was at “low risk to reoffend.”
Representing Sandhoff, attorney David Lockie reviewed the results of the evaluation before the court, which said the defendant took responsibility for his actions and was “forthright” about his crime.
“He understands the nature of what he’s done and he takes responsibility,” Lockie said, adding that Sandhoff was determined by the evaluators to have “no predatory component” and pointing back to the parole and probation’s recommendation to the court.
“The division took a hard look and made the recommendation” for probation, Lockie said.
The court also heard from three members of Sandhoff’s family, who testified that the defendant was “remorseful” about his behavior and described him as “honest and hard working.” They each said they believed Sandhoff would not pose a risk to the community if given probation.
Sandhoff gave his own statement, apologizing to the victim and the families involved for his actions.
“I wish there was something I could do to take it away,” Sandhoff said. “This is something I have to live with. There’s been a lot of children that have suffered in this … All I can say is I’m sorry.”
The victim read a prepared statement to the court and Sandhoff, saying that the ordeal made her “stronger” and asked that Sandhoff be sentenced to prison and “not be rewarded” for his “immature and disgusting” acts.
“I’d like to say what you did to me was a horrible thing,” the girl said. “I lost part of my childhood for what you did. I want to move on, put this behind me and not be a victim.”
“I don’t want him to do this to anyone else,” she said.
In recommending prison time, Deputy District Attorney Mark Mills said “the state is glad to see” Sandhoff is remorseful, noting the testimony from his family stating that the defendant had “some good attributes,” but argued that sexual predators come from all walks of life and do not look like a “common street criminal.”
“The greatest weight is the harm done to a 12-year-old girl and her family,” Mills said, and read from her parent’s statement that described the child suffering from anxiety, depression, trust issues and an eating disorder as a result of the incident.
Mills repeated the victim’s statement that “the sheer disgusting nature of this crime” was the reason to sentence Sandhoff to 19 to 48 months in prison to be served consecutively without probation.
Before handing down the sentence, Porter said she “considered everything I’ve read and heard,” including the impact the crime made on the victim and the argument from Mills that a person with good attributes could still have a deviant side.
Porter said that the psychosexual evaluation found Sandhoff to be at low risk to reoffend, that he was reported to be “without an agenda” and he did not try to gain the sympathy of the evaluator during the interview, restating the parole and probation division’s recommendation for probation.
“My sentence is not a reward,” Porter said, explaining that the Department of Justice states that sexual offenders are less likely to reoffend when treated within society. “He will suffer many consequences.”