New West: “More on the Steven James Sitler Child Molestation Case”

New West | July 4, 2006

More on the Steven James Sitler Child Molestation Case

By Joan Opyr

Steven Sitler was, for 18 months, a student at Moscow’s New St. Andrews College. He was also a serial child molester. He admits to having preyed on children between the ages of two and twelve across multiple states, including Washington and Idaho. He received a life sentence in Idaho for an offense committed in this state. At present, Sitler is serving one year of that sentence in the Latah County Jail. He is allowed to leave the jail each week, unaccompanied, to attend counseling sessions. According to Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson, Sitler is given just enough time to drive to his counseling sessions, attend them, and drive back. This is not, in my opinion, adequate supervision; it’s a stopwatch.

In a letter to my mother-in-law, Rose Huskey, dated June 27, 2006, Bill Thompson writes:

“RE: State of Idaho v. Steven J. Sitler
Latah County Case CR-2005-02027

  1. Mr. Sitler retained the services of an attorney before the investigating officers from the Sheriff’s Office could interview him. Consequently, his constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent prohibited any investigative questioning by the State.
  2. Inasmuch as my office does not have any investigators on staff, we rely on the investigative services of local law enforcement. In this particular case, the Sheriff’s Office did a good job of interviewing the identified victim and a number of witnesses. As I mentioned above, they were not legally able to interview Mr. Sitler.
  3. It is my recollection that Moscow attorney Greg Dickison represented the victim’s family and encouraged and supported them in reporting to law enforcement.
  4. We are now aware, through Mr. Sitler’s mandatory self-disclosure as part of the psychosexual evaluation process, that there are other victims of Mr. Sitler. None of these victims or their families have otherwise come forward although they have all been contacted and advised of the defendant’s disclosures. Additionally, the authorities in the state of Washington (where other offenses occurred) have agreed not to pursue any additional charges in light of Mr. Sitler’s guilty plea, disclosures, and sentence here in Idaho.
  5. Regarding Mr. Sitler’s treatment release, it is my understanding that the jail staff releases him with just enough time to travel directly to his treatment program. He is then required to contact the jail when he arrives at the program to allow jail staff to confirm that he is where is he is supposed to be. Similarly, at the conclusion of his treatment session, the jail is notified that he is leaving and he is given a specified amount of time to make the trip. These safeguards were put in place to facilitate Mr. Sitler receiving treatment while still protecting the public by virtue of his continued incarceration. Since we have been advised that the Idaho Department of Correction does not offer intensive sex offender treatment, the only other option available to the Court to ensure that appropriate treatment was provided would be to place Mr. Sitler directly into the community on supervision. At this stage, Judge Stegner wisely elected not to do that, instead opting for the current blended incarceration and treatment arrangement.
  6. Finally, you [Rose Huskey] are correct that Mr. Sitler has been sentenced to life in prison and that he will remain subject to the jurisdiction of the Idaho Correctional System for the rest of his natural life, regardless of whether he is incarcerated or under community probation or parole supervision.”

Mr. Sitler’s attorney was Dean Wullenwaber. The family of Sitler’s Idaho victim retained Greg Dickison. At various times and in various matters, both Greg Dickison and Dean Wullenwaber have served as counsel for Christ Church, New Saint Andrews College, and Pastor Doug Wilson. There was an eight-month delay between the time Steven Sitler confessed his crimes to Doug Wilson and when Wilson alerted members of a Christ Church Heads of Household meeting.

Some weeks ago, in the comments section of his blog, Doug Wilson wrote about the limited options available to Judge John Stegner when he sentenced Steven Sitler under the auspices of Idaho Code 18-1508, Lewd Conduct With A Minor Under Sixteen:

“We are not living in a situation where biblical law is being applied. If we were, I certainly would not have a problem with the death penalty being one of the options on the table. I have explained to some involved in this that biblical Christians in our legal system are having to play chess on a backgammon board. . . . the reasoning of the judge was this. If Steven [Sitler] had gone to the penitentiary in Boise, he would have received no treatment, and would have been eligible for parole in 5 years. With the sentence he received, he is getting treatment twice a week, and his case will be reviewed at the end of this year. Under what scenario was reoffending more likely?

My letter to the judge showed that I wanted real consequences, with teeth, and so the phrase ‘measured and limited’ needs to taken in the context of what the available options actually were.”

Regarding the options that were available to Judge Stegner, Wilson is incorrect. It was within Stegner’s power to sentence Steven Sitler to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In his letter to Judge Stegner, Wilson wrote, “I have good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.” Soon, Steven Sitler will be released from jail. The statistics regarding recidivism rates among convicted pedophiles are not encouraging. As a mark of his genuine repentance, Sitler could have insisted that his attorney, Dean Wullenwaber, make the case for life in prison. In his self-disclosure, Sitler admitted to having molested multiple children many times over several years; he was sentenced for having molested one child on one occasion.

Unnoticed and unremarked, Steven Sitler walked among us for 18 months. When Doug Wilson learned of Sitler’s crimes in April of 2005, he did not warn us; he did not inform us; and, to date, he has not seen fit to apologize for failing to alert the members of his church or the larger Moscow community to the presence of this predator in our midst.