News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Probation for ex-teacher on sex charges
May 17, 2012 - By Martin Reed, Staff Writer
Fremont County prosecutor Patrick LeBrun delivered a message in court on Thursday morning to supporters of former Riverton High School teacher Sean Coby Stoehr.
To those who think Stoehr did nothing criminal, "What I can say to anyone out there is they are flat wrong," LeBrun said during the sentencing.
"He's in bed in his underpants with a 16-year-old boy in his underpants watching a pornographic video," LeBrun said about Stoehr's actions, adding that the defendant may have thought he was acting as a brother to the teen.
"Thirty-three-year-old men do not do that unless there is some weird thought process going on in there, and anyone who ignores that is fatally mistaken," LeBrun said.
Following terms of the plea agreement, Lander's Ninth District Judge Norman E. Young issued a suspended prison sentence of three to five years and placed Stoehr on five years of intensive supervised probation.
Stoehr pleaded guilty on March 8 to felony third-degree sexual abuse of a minor for behavior that included sending sexual requests by text message to the teenage boy between June 1 and Aug. 31.
Stoehr admitted his guilt under a legal term called an Alford plea, which Young described in an earlier proceeding as originating from a death penalty case involving a defendant who maintained his innocence but thought a jury would find him guilty.
Other charges dropped
The guilty plea under the agreement resulted in dismissing other charges of felony sexual exploitation of children and misdemeanor counts of promoting obscenity and providing alcohol and tobacco to a minor.
Stoehr during much of the 30-minute hearing had his head hanging down while crying with his hands occasionally held to his face. About 20 people attended the hearing including family members of the defendant and victim, representatives of Fremont County School District 25 and law enforcement members.
Stoehr in a tear-filled statement to the court thanked his family, friends and others in the community who have supported him throughout his prosecution. "I am more grateful and thankful for my life today than I ever have," he said.
He said he has learned "responsibility, humility and being a better person." He has made bad choices, "but I will continue to learn from those mistakes," he said, sitting next to his attorney, David Hooper.
"I will never ever forgive myself," Stoehr said, his crying affecting his voice. "The responsibility rests on my shoulders alone."
LeBrun described the case as "exactly the type ... that rips communities limb from limb." He called Stoehr "the cool teacher" who provides alcohol and cigars, and the victim as "young, impressionable" who respected his instructor.
"He's the teacher that tells students, 'Don't tell your parents you're going over to my house tonight,'" LeBrun said.
The sentencing hearing did not contain explicit detail and examples of Stoehr's actions that became the focus of his previous change-of-plea hearing. During that hearing, Riverton Police Detective Sgt. Julie Mathews testified that Stoehr encouraged the boy to videotape himself masturbating so the teacher could send the recording to someone who in exchange would provide other videos.
LeBrun said he agreed to the plea deal because of the recommendations for probation terms contained within the pre-sentence investigation report.
"This is certainly a case where reasonable minds might differ on whether Mr. Stoehr should be sent to prison," he said.
The one reason for allowing probation for Stoehr is "because it appears we caught him before he accomplished his ultimate goal and we all know what his ultimate goal was," LeBrun said.
He said the court needs to "impose very strict probation terms for Mr. Stoehr. I intend to enforce each and every one of these terms. There is no minor term in these provisions."
Among the terms ordered by the court were undergoing a sexual offender evaluation and counseling, no contact with the victim, not residing with minors without permission by the probation agent and not being at parks, schools, arcades and other places where children frequent.
If Stoehr violates any term of his probation, LeBrun said he will ensure "that he serve every second of that" suspended prison term.
Hooper said his client has suffered in the case by losing his job, career and "every possession he had."
"The notion that Mr. Stoehr is getting off with something in this case is a long ways from the truth," Hooper said. "It's not like he just waltzed in here and walked away from it."