Cmdr. Robert Schetky, formerly the top-ranking Navy officer in Alaska, was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison with two years suspended for the attempted sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl.
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Schetky, 54, stood head-shaven at military attention in Juneau Superior Court as Judge Larry Weeks handed down the sentence.
"No one will ever know the damage done to her," Weeks said.
Before the sentence was announced, Schetky made a brief apology: "The damage I've caused to my family, I can't change that. I ask for forgiveness and hope to amend what I did."
The statement did not suffice for Weeks.
"You are wrong if you think all it takes is forgiveness," the judge said.
A military man such as Schetky, Weeks said, should know discipline and be able to control sexual impulses.
"Absent that control, you should spend the rest of your life in prison," Weeks said.
Over a period of months last fall, Schetky touched the breasts of a 12-year-old girl multiple times. Records show that Schetky advanced from fondling outside her clothing, then underneath, eventually fondling the minor's breasts while attempting to kiss her.
The last time the former naval commander touched his victim was on Christmas Day. Schetky was arrested in January.
He never challenged his victim's accusations, saying he knew she would talk and that what she said was true.
After pleading more serious charges down to one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor, he entered The Meadows, a treatment facility in Arizona that specializes in substance and sexual addictions.
That facility recommended additional treatment for Schetky at a facility in Pennsylvania.
"They withheld your certificate for a while, trying to get your attention," Weeks said. "You are going to have to change. If you don't, you are going to go away."
Before his arrest Schetky held a top secret clearance as the highest ranking naval officer in Alaska. He was officer in charge of the U.S. Pacific Fleet Maritime Homeland Defense Detachment.
Schetky, still on active duty, could face military prosecution.
Louis Menendez, Schetky's attorney, said, "The Navy recognized in a case like this the family shouldn't be penalized."
The Navy has not yet determined if Schetky will receive any retirement benefits.
"A final decision has not yet been made," said Shane Tuck, spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet. "The decision rest with the secretary of the Navy.
According to Weeks, Schetky received a deferential sentence because he was allowed to plea to a less serious crime.
District Attorney Jack Schmidt said the state sought the plea agreement primarily to protect Schetky's victim from further damage testifying before a grand jury. Essentially, if Schetky accepted responsibility for his actions, the DA was willing to offer a lesser charge.
"The judge could have rejected it," Schmidt said.
With two years of his sentence suspended, Schetky is expected to serve two years in prison and five years of probation.
He is also required to register as a sex offender for 15 years following his release. A provision in the sentence keeps him from having contact of any sort, including third party communication, with his victim without prior approval.
Schetky must also avoid all contact with girls age 16 and under, and submit to DNA collection.
After advising Schetky to get control of his predilections, Weeks announced that if he was convicted again for sexual crimes involving minors "incredible punishment" would follow.
"Basically the rest of your life in jail," Weeks said.
Greg Skinner can be reached at 523-2258, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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