No ordinary sentencing for sex offender

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 12, 2011 - 7:20 PM

Judge gives Burnsville man probation for abusing teen. He has brain tumor and may have only months to live.

A Dakota County judge told a convicted sex offender, sitting before him in a wheelchair, that there should be consequences for his actions.

"But I have no consequences I can give," Judge Richard Spicer told James B. Vandusartz, 57, of Burnsville. Vandusartz, a former girls' hockey coach who pleaded guilty in September to sexually assaulting a teenage girl at his home, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor nearly a year ago and given 15 months to live.

Spicer said it didn't make sense to sentence Vandusartz to jail, community service or electronic home monitoring. None of those would be appropriate or effective for a defendant as sick as Vandusartz, he said.

At the sentencing hearing on Monday in Hastings, Spicer gave Vandusartz a stay-of-imposition sentence, put him on probation for 15 years and ordered him to register as a sexual offender.

Vandusartz pleaded guilty in September to third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The assault happened Nov. 28, 2010. In January 2011, Vandusartz was diagnosed with the tumor.

According to the charges, the victim, who was 16 or 17 at the time of the crime, told police the coach digitally penetrated her while she was at his home. Vandusartz was a junior varsity hockey coach at the Blake School, but the girl was not a student there.

After the girl went to police, investigators arranged for a phone call between the coach and the student. During that conversation, Vandusartz "stated he felt there was a spark between them, and while they didn't have to be lovers, he thought the student enjoyed getting pleasure from him and he enjoyed giving it," the charges said.

Defense attorney Denny Johnson told the judge that Vandusartz's wife began noticing erratic behavior in May 2010. After the incident with the student in late November, Vandusartz's wife told him to "get to a doctor, now," Johnson said. The tumor caused Vandusartz to have trouble with impulse control, Johnson said.

Prosecutor Kevin Golden acknowledged that Vandusartz's case was "not an ordinary sentencing," but he asked the judge not to "minimize the severity of the offense" and to sentence the case "on its merits."

Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284

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