Judge, prosecutor lament plea agreement in ‘problematic’ child sex abuse case

5th District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, June 5, 2017 | File photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —  A LaVerkin man accused of sexually assaulting a teenager multiple times over the course of eight years was sentenced Wednesday in a case plagued with complications.

Andrew Beagely Dockstader, 38, was sentenced in 5th District Court after pleading guilty to two second-degree felony counts of forcible sex abuse.

The case stems from an investigation that began in December when police were called on a report that a 17-year-old had been sexually assaulted by Dockstader numerous times in various locations in LaVerkin, Hurricane and Arizona. The abuse stopped only after it was disclosed to a family member and friend.

Under the plea agreement, a dozen felony charges were dismissed: four first-degree felony counts of object rape; three counts of rape; and one count of forcible sodomy. Also dismissed were four second-degree felony counts of forcible sex abuse, according to charging documents filed in December.

Read more: LaVerkin man faces multiple felony charges for sexually assaulting teenage girl

In Wednesday’s hearing, 5th District Judge G. Michael Westfall sentenced Dockstader to one to 15 years in prison on each count as well as a $10,000 fine – a sentence that was stayed. Instead, Dockstader was ordered to serve 280 days in jail and placed on 48 months probation in addition to the standard sentencing requirements and restrictions that apply to sex offenders. He is also required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

He was ordered to complete 500 hours of community service, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and sex offender treatment. He was also prohibited from possessing any computers, smartphone or any other device that can be connected to the internet and “used to lure children.”

Andrew Dockstader, of LaVerkin, booking photo, Washington County, Utah, Dec. 18, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Dockstader’s attorney, Gary Pendleton, reminded the court that part of the agreement included credit for time served, which is 184 days since his arrest in December. Pendleton added that his client “wants to take responsibility for what he’s done” and agrees to all of the terms of sentencing.

Westfall questioned the plea agreement, particularly in light of the details of the case and severity of the offenses.

“I can’t think of a case where I’ve even considered probation under similar circumstances,” Westfall said.

The case was rife with tainted witnesses and evidentiary issues, lead prosecutor Zachary Weiland said in court. “The state had little choice but to agree to the terms of the plea agreement.”

“This case was like an onion,” he said, explaining that every layer that was pulled back revealed another issue that had to be overcome.

“And not everything could be overcome here.”

One of the issues plaguing the case from the onset was an “influential” individual that the victim was involved with who not only had a financial interest in the outcome of the case, but even had an “inappropriate relationship” with the victim which “severely undermined the case,” Weiland said.

“This case was very problematic from the beginning,” he said.

Weiland read a portion of a statement from the victim, who was not present during the hearing.

The victim wrote that she continues to suffer both physically and emotionally, including a number of  physical conditions that she may have to live with for the rest of her life.

Westfall pointed out a reference made involving one physical issue in particular that directly related to the age of the victim when the abuse started.

“Just so that it is clear here – the claim is that he was engaging in sexual relations with this child since she was 9 years old, hence the physical problems she has as a result.”

The victim also wrote, “I personally feel that he should be on death row.”

In Dockstader’s address to the court, he acknowledged the damage he has caused and the people he hurt that were caught in the “ripple effect.”

The defendant will also be prohibited from frequenting any protected zone, including any area where children are known to congregate, including parks, schools, community pools and so on and was ordered not to have any contact with any child under the age of 18.

The judge also prohibited Dockstader from having any contact with the victim or the victim’s family “without prior approval of AP&P.”

The defendant’s attorney said that Dockstader and his wife are still married and plan to remain as such. However, the final restriction would prevent him from seeing his children or even from living in the home at some point.

“My order is what it is. If AP&P approves him being around other children that he can victimize then so be it. But I personally don’t think it’s appropriate.”

This report is based on statements from police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

 

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