Editor’s note: The following story contains a description of a crime of a sexual nature. Readers are encouraged to use their own discretion when reading.
Christopher Scholes of Juneau was sentenced to 70 years in jail with 30 years suspended, 40 to serve, and 25 on probation for the December 2008 kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old girl.
The emotional two-day hearing included statements from the victim’s parents and testimony from the defendant’s ex-wife about her former husband’s mental condition. Even the defendant told the court that were it his children involved he wouldn’t care what form of mental illness the perpetrator was suffering from.
The hearing even took a toll on the judge.
“I think it would be presumptuous of me to think that I can understand what she has gone through and I am not going to claim that I can. I think that only someone who has been in her shoes really could,” Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg said of the young victim before delivering the sentence.
Pallenberg stated the crime committed was most importantly against her, but was also a “loss of innocence for the whole community. That without question has affected and continues to affect every child and every parent in Juneau, every aunt or uncle, brother or sister, or every woman in Juneau, everybody; to realize that something like this can happen here.”
“The circumstances that combine to cause a person to make the decision to commit this kind of an act certainly cannot justify the act or excuse it,” Pallenberg said. “Alaska law calls for a heavy price to be paid for these acts.”
Scholes was arrested Dec. 5, 2008 on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington and indicted on 17 felony counts, pleaded guilty Sept. 1,7 2009 to kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree and sexual assault of a minor in the second degree.
As part of the sentencing the state can submit a claim for restitution of future financial loss for the victim.
Scholes must undergo mental health, substance abuse, and psychiatric evaluations or counseling and must successfully complete a sex offenders treatment program both in and out of incarceration. If he does become eligible for probation it includes not being in contact with persons under 16 or residing in dwellings that house persons under 18, complying with sexual offender registration, not possessing or viewing pornographic material, being subject to search of computer and polygraph testing.
“I don’t think the English language really contains words that are adequate to describe the horrific nature of this kidnapping and rape,” Pallenberg said. “It was a horrible, brutal, savage attack. When the victim tried to text a message for HELP, she was only able to get out the letters H E L L before Mr. Scholes caught her. Those were appropriate letters as she went though a couple of hours of hell that night, and I don’t doubt that she has experienced that hell many times since then.
Prior to sentencing, defense attorney David Seid called Scholes’ ex-wife to the stand. Laura Scholes said the two had met at college more than 20 years ago and although the marriage ended two years ago the friendship remains. She noticed mood swings beginning more than seven years ago when he began a new medical prescription for a bipolar condition. She stated his behavior had become erratic and when arrested, his conversations were all over the map. Since his incarceration, she said she noticed a change for the better.
“It was like my husband disappeared for several years and has returned,” she said.
State’s attorney Angie Kemp noted Christopher Scholes had an extra-marital affair, left financial burdens, and had a pornography addiction that his wife would not find out about until she had to pay the bills.
Kemp asked if she still loved him and she replied “yes.” Ms. Scholes said when she visited Christopher in prison, he spoke of periods of blackouts of the crime and that he “couldn’t believe what he put the girl through, I can’t think of it without crying.”
Kemp asked Pallenberg to consider aggregators in the sentencing for deliberate cruelty and psychological abuse.
Kemp argued that Scholes had gone off his bipolar medication deliberately and as a means to seek sexual gratification during his affair.
“Because he is bipolar does he get to sexually assault someone?” Kemp said. “He has taken something from her she can never get back and she will always have this incident with her.”
Seid asked Pallenberg to send the case to a three-judge panel for sentencing, a request Pallenberg denied. Alaska law allows for a trial court to submit sentencing to a three-judge panel when there are extraordinary aggravating or mitigating factors that might affect a statutorily presumed sentence. Seid argued the factors that led to this crime are Scholes’ bipolar disorder which, in his case, includes sexual impulsivity, an addiction to pornography, and the use of steroids, medications, and energy drinks.
Seid noted Scholes’ lack of previous violence and favorable background for rehabilitation.
“It was a perfect storm that contributed to this crime,” Seid said. “Things went haywire and Mr. Scholes committed this act. We are not a system based on retribution, we are a due process model.”
The mother of the victim addressed the court and Scholes saying, “I have waited a long time to be able to speak, and my source of a nightmare has become a reality. When I learned of the attack I wanted nothing more than to give her a heart-filled hug but it would cause more physical pain. On behalf of my daughter I ask that this person receive the maximum time allowed, I believe the community as a whole deserves this.”
The victim’s father said it is time for justice.
“I have never seen a man fight so long, make him accept his responsibility,” the father said. “Somehow this is justified by bipolar (disorder), but there are thousands of bipolar people out there that don’t commit this crime. You let him out and he is going to do it again; you need to keep him caged up.”
The father looked at Scholes and said, “You and I both know I am telling the truth.”
Scholes said what he could say to the victim would never be enough.
“I am also a father,” Scholes said, holding up photos of his children. “I know how I would feel if this were one of my daughters. I think about it every day. I wouldn’t care if the person were sick.”
Scholes said his world was spinning out of control, that the highs and lows of bipolar drove his business into the ground and his friends away, but new medication has changed him.
“It is like someone has taken the blinders off,” Scholes said. “I am, in short, myself again. I continue to improve and hope to get the mental health treatment I need. I believe I have a productive life ahead of me and people who are jumping at the chance to be a part of it.”
The victim’s own words read in court tell her story.
“I used to love walking by myself outside but now I am terrified,” the victim wrote in a statement read in court.
“I can never be alone. Before I thought I would never get raped but then I did, and I did, and I did. I now think anything and everything bad will happen to me. Sometimes it is hard for me to go to bed. Nowhere is safe to me. I am terrified of everything. The only way to deal with this or even function is to not think about it and forget about it.”
• Contact Klas Stolpe at
523-2263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.