Chad Hunt, standing in a courtroom jammed with supporters Friday, looked at the man he said sexually molested him an estimated 1,480 times nearly three decades ago.

That man, whom Anoka County District Judge Dyanna Street referred to as a monster, was Joseph Hunt, a former Coon Rapids police officer and Chad Hunt's adoptive father.

"Being me has been a lifelong curse," said Chad Hunt, who is now 40. "The fact that he hid behind a badge makes him a coward."

Later, a few clapped softly when Joseph Hunt was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, the maximum allowed by state sentencing guidelines in place when the abuse occurred in the mid-1980s. The same crime today could have landed Hunt in prison for up to 12 years.

Before Street issued her sentence, Joseph Hunt said he had been close with his son until last year, when Chad Hunt told police he had been molested as a teenager by his father. Joseph Hunt talked about fishing trips in Colorado and said there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for his children.

"I can't turn the clock back. Oh, I wish I could," said Joseph Hunt. "I didn't abuse anybody before or after him. I prayed for God to forgive me."

Hunt, 61, who retired from the police force after serving from 1977 to 2004, pleaded guilty in January to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct involving his teenage son between 1984 and 1987. As part of the plea agreement, two other counts of criminal sexual conduct were dropped. According to the complaint filed last year, Chad Hunt met with a sheriff's deputy last July regarding the allegations.

During his impact statement Friday, Chad Hunt railed against his mother, calling her scum for letting the abuse happen in their home. "Being a pedophile is beneath anything," he said. "My nightmares are indescribable."

Two of Joseph Hunt's daughters and Chad Hunt's wife also gave emotional impact statements. One described her disappointment in a father who "was supposed to protect children and instead became a predator." She said she now understands why her brother had been so self-destructive in his life, struggling with alcohol and drugs and cutting himself. "I hate that you robbed Chad of his childhood," she said. "You are a disgrace as a father, a policeman and a man."

Chad Hunt said the only time he could be a child was the three months each year he lived with his grandmother. He said that Joseph Hunt didn't tell him about his biological father, Mitchell Maurstad, while he was growing up, but that they started a relationship about 10 years ago. Maurstad was in the courtroom Friday to support his son.

Sentencing arguments

Prosecutor Amy Reed-Hall challenged the argument by Hunt's attorney, John Leunig, that Street should sentence him to probation with no prison time. She questioned the sincerity of Hunt's remorse. Although Joseph Hunt told authorities he had been sexually abused by his father, Reed-Hall said he had the choice to end the cycle of abuse.

"If he doesn't get a prison sentence, what message is the court sending to the community?" she said.

Joseph Hunt isn't the same person he was 30 years ago when the abuse took place, Leunig said. He didn't have a criminal record, was active in Boy Scouts and fundraising activities for area schools and served as a volunteer firefighter.

"His remorse is so obvious," Leunig said. "That the prosecution questions it is beyond belief." He chastised people in the courtroom for "trying to create an image of Joe Hunt as a monster" and asked Street what the benefit would be of locking him up in a cage for 41 months.

At the end of his statement, Joseph Hunt told his daughters that he would rather have them tell their children that "Papa is dead" than about his abuse of Chad.

Judge Street appeared to be caught up in the emotion of the hearing, especially when she offered her thoughts on sentencing. When Chad Hunt said he was molested 1,480 times, she said, it took her breath away.

"It must have been confusing for Chad because you were a superdad outside the home, but Chad saw the monster you were," she told Joseph Hunt.

As Joseph Hunt was being led out of the courtroom by deputies, he tried to take off his wedding ring and give it to his wife. He also appeared about to say something to Chad Hunt, but kept silent.

Street then asked the supporters of Joseph Hunt to leave the courtroom first to avoid any possible confrontations in the hall. Four people got up and left.

The other 75 people, many wearing teal ribbons to support victims of sexual abuse, hugged each other and shed tears. Some of those hugs came from police officers.

"Today is the first step in moving forward," said Chad Hunt.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465