A Juneau judge on Tuesday accepted a plea agreement that sentenced a local man to serve 25 years in prison for sexually abusing a minor from 2007 to 2009.
But before judgment was imposed, the attorney for Ronald W. Blue, 39, called his client’s mother to the stand, who testified her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and has a long history of mental illness.
“It’s not an excuse, it doesn’t justify what has been done, but it does give a shred — some light on explaining how something like this could come to happen,” Blue’s attorney Jude Pate told Judge Philip Pallenberg.
Blue’s mother, Cheryl Nielson, who informed the judge that she did not know about the abuse as it was occurring, testified her son was hospitalized at least once before, at age 20, and that he had auditory hallucinations.
Nielson noted that the day before her son confessed to police — one of the victim’s family members reported the abuse to the police in February, and Blue turned himself in at the police station a few days later and gave a confession — he had taken pills to try to overdose.
“He didn’t want to live when he realized what he’d done,” Nielson said.
Pate said that there were several legal issues involved in the case that could have been litigated, such as the admissibility of the statements given to police at the station, given Blue’s mental state at the time. But he said his client wanted to spare the victim more pain by just pleading to the crimes as charged.
Pate said Blue has felt “overwhelming guilt” about the abuse, has shown remorse and has taken as much responsibility as much as he can. Court records show he knew the victim.
In the same vein, Blue stood up before Pallenberg and admitted that all the allegations leveled against him were true.
“First off, your Honor, what I’ve got to say is that these allegations against me are completely true,” Blue said, still wearing handcuffs after the judge denied his lawyer’s request to remove them. “... I was so screwed up in the head that I couldn’t tell right from wrong a lot, and you know, it’s ‘cause — I think about it every single day all day long. What, you know, how could I do something like that, you know? How could I do something like that? I mean... I don’t have an answer. I have absolutely no answer whatsoever.”
Blue added, “I was sick, I was really sick, and I’m sorry.”
Blue was originally charged in March with seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, unclassified felonies that are punishable by up to 99 years in prison.
Blue pleaded guilty to one consolidated count in July, dropping the other charges against him.
On Tuesday, Pallenberg sentenced him to 40 years in prison with 15 years suspended, which means he would serve 25 years. After his release from prison, Blue will also be required to be on supervised probation for 20 years.
The presumptive sentencing range for Blue was 25 to 35 years, but sentencing aggravators allowed that range to be increased to 40 years.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams told the judge this case was one of the hardest cases she’s ever had to prosecute, and the victim in the case, one of the bravest she’s met.
Williams said she agreed with a probation officer’s characterization of the crimes as being “nothing short than horrifying and evil.”
“We don’t often see language that strong in a presentence report prepared by the probation office,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment in this case.”
She said the only reason the state agreed to offer a plea deal in this case was because prosecutors couldn’t take the risk that Blue’s confession at the police station would be inadmissible at trial.
“His mental state at the time was questionable even at the time the confession was received, (the) investigation after that and the events, his hospitalization at Bartlett (Regional Hospital), immediately after that, called further into question his mental state at the time that his confession was received,” Williams said.
Williams added the deal was offered also in part because Blue was willing to plead to the offense and not a reduced charge.
Pate said Blue was now, and at the time of his change of plea hearing in July, receiving five medications for schizophrenia.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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