Casper Teen Sentenced to Prison for Sexual Abuse of Young Girl
A 19-year-old Casper man is set to graduate from high school later this month and has agreed to surrender himself to authorities the following afternoon to begin serving a prison sentence handed down Tuesday in Natrona County District Court.
Martin Piper was sentenced to three to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of sexual abuse of a minor in the third degree. Judge Thomas Sullins will recommend Piper participate in the boot camp program and could consider a sentence reduction should Piper successfully complete the program.
Sullins ordered Piper to serve time behind bars despite pleas from the victim and family members for Piper to be placed on probation so he could be rehabilitated.
"They both deserve help, and I don't believe going to prison would provide that help," the victim's mother told Sullins. "Our goal is to be a family again."
"I don't want Martin to go to prison," the victim said during her statement to the court. "We are both trying to get help right now."
"I'm not scared of Martin," she added. "I just wanted it to stop. I was scared of what was going on."
Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri said it was a case that demanded prison time. While Piper was convicted on a single count, Taheri said, the abuse had continued for some time.
"This was in no way this young girl's fault," Taheri told the court. "A crime of this nature against a young child deserves a prison sentence of some amount."
Piper was arrested last year after Casper police investigated a sexual assault alleged to have occurred on March 5, 2016. The victim, who was 13 or 14 years old at the time, described the abuse during an interview at the Children's Advocacy Project in Casper.
Piper was interviewed the day after the crime was reported. He spoke with a detective and admitted to the abuse without hesitation, court documents show.
Defense attorney Zak Szekely told the court Piper's cooperation during the investigation indicated he would be a good candidate for probation, as recommended by the writer of the presentence investigation report.
"Nothing would be served by having this young man incarcerated," Szekely told the court. "With budget cutbacks, if he was in Torrington he wouldn't get any treatment. If he was in Rawlins, he certainly wouldn't."
"It's time to look at fixing the problem," Szekely continued. "I see a family that has been devastated by this."
"To place this man in a penitentiary for three to twelve years would devastate this family again. I would ask the court not to devastate this family any more," Szekely said.
Sullins suggested Piper would likely qualify for the boot camp program and asked Szekely whether that would be an appropriate element of the sentence. Sullins said the program provides structure, physical activity and a substantial amount of counseling geared toward the benefit of participants.
"I don't believe physically he'd be able to do it," Szekely replied.
"There's way too much of this crime in our society and our community," Sullins said, asking Szekely about the message Piper's sentence would send and whether a term of probation with no prison time would deter other would-be sex offenders from committing similar crimes.
"We're talking about deterrence versus rehabilitation," Szekely responded. "He has a chance to continue his job and continue his life."
"At his age, your honor, we hope young men are able to grow up," he continued. Szekely said of the sexual assault cases he has seen, this case was different because of Piper's age, lack of criminal history and his proactive behaviors in assisting investigators and seeking treatment for himself.
Szekely also called attention to the sizeable support of Piper's family, many of whom were present in the courtroom Tuesday morning.
Sullins noted those factors, but told Szekely the court needed to consider, "general deterrence from this crime in this community," with a goal of turning "some others in this community who would commit this type of crime against a young child."
He added his concern toward deterring Piper, in particular.
In his statement to the court before hearing his sentence, Piper apologized for what he did and said if he could do things differently, he would.
"I wasn't thinking about the consequences," Piper said. "My childish urges got the better of me."
Before sentencing Piper, Sullins emphasized the difficulty of the decision. But he also highlighted the need for consequences in such a case.
"This type of criminal conduct should not be tolerated in our community," Sullins said, adding that he took into account the damage to family relationships.
"That's all attributed to Mr. Piper's criminal conduct," Sullins added.
In a rare move, Sullins agreed to allow Piper to finish high school before serving his prison sentence. Piper was ordered to present himself at the Natrona County Detention Center on May 24 at 1 p.m.