Archive for Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Ex-church volunteer faces time in prison

April 18, 2001

If a judge agrees, a Lawrence man who confessed to molesting four Tonganoxie youths will spend more than seven years in jail.

According to a plea agreement reached between attorneys, Daniel Petersen, 33, would serve 91 months in prison, said Shelley Diehl, Douglas County assistant district attorney. Last week, Petersen, a former volunteer youth leader at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church, pled guilty to four criminal charges in the case.

Christine Tonkovich, Douglas County district attorney, said the victims and their families were consulted before the plea agreement was reached.

"It's hard to make a general statement regarding whether or not trials are difficult for victims of these kinds of crimes," Tonkovich said. "What we look at is what the optimum outcome would be if we took the case to trial. In this case, the results of the plea agreement were such that we felt it was better than putting everyone through the trauma of a trial."

Petersen pled guilty to one count of criminal sodomy, two counts of attempted indecent liberties with a child and one county of attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Sentencing is set for May 18.

Diehl said she and Petersen's attorney, Sally Howard, agreed that in exchange for Petersen's plea he would serve 91 months in jail.

"Obviously, the court doesn't have to accept our recommendation at all," Diehl said.

Petersen has remained in Douglas County Jail since the charges against him were lodged in January. Officials say Petersen molested the boys, who were 13 to 15 years old, at his Lawrence home between 1997 and 2000.

Originally, Petersen was charged with 11 felonies: eight counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child; two counts of criminal sodomy; and one count of aggravated sexual battery.

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