Judge: "One of the saddest cases this court has ever seen."
Shortly before being sentenced in Polk County District Court on Tuesday to nearly 13 years in prison for sex crimes involving two young girls, Jarrin Dean Boucher tearfully addressed Judge Kurt Marben.
"I know nothing I say will make up for the actions I've taken," Boucher said in a quivering voice as nearly 20 supporters – family and friends – watched from the benches behind him. "Not a day goes by when I don't think about what I've done. The victims are what matters most, and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make up for this. It's the worst thing I've ever done. I am sincerely sorry for my actions."
Boucher, 18, of Crookston, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. In the plea agreement reached with the Polk County Attorney's Office, his sentence could range from 144 to 168 months. He had faced spending 30-plus years in prison if convicted on the five original charges.
Calling it "one of the saddest cases this court has ever seen," Marben took the middle ground and imposed a sentence of 153 months, with credit for time served at the Northwest Regional Corrections Center, where he has been held on $250,000 bond since his arrest last spring. "These crimes were absolutely devastating to the victims and their families, and from the letters you wrote me, I think you realize this," he told Boucher.
Boucher must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence incarcerated in a Minnesota Department of Corrections facility, with a possibility of serving the remainder under supervised release if his behavior guidelines are met. Under conditional release of 10 years, Marben explained that after serving his prison time, Boucher would be bound to certain conditions for an additional 10 years and could be sent back to prison if he violates these conditions of release. He must also register as a predatory sexual offender, which is required until he is fully released from his sentence, including parole or supervised release time.
Other conditions include the mandatory requirement for felony convictions that Boucher not be allowed to ship, transport, purchase or possess firearms or ammunition for the remainder of his lifetime. In this sense, the definition of firearms is broad, Marben stressed, and can include ordinary objects transformed into dangerous weapons.
The charges stem from accusations raised by two students in the Fisher School kindergarten class Boucher, then a senior, served as a classroom aide for during the 2011-12 school year, through a youth service program at the high school that also allowed juniors and seniors to earn class credit. According to the criminal complaint, a six-year-old girl told family, school and law enforcement authorities that Boucher had “touched her in the wrong place" three times in school on April 25. When interviewed, Boucher admitted to two of the incidents.
After Boucher appeared in court on May 1, allegations that he had fondled another five-year-old girl in school the past Halloween surfaced, which he admitted to in an interview with authorities. Three more charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct were then filed.
Because he was a minor when the earlier incident occurred, Boucher was charged as a juvenile in that case. Due to the nature of the crimes and Boucher's age, the prosecution requested and received adult certification of the charges.
In arguing for the higher end sentence of 168 months, Polk County Attorney Greg Widseth noted that a number people wrote "glowing" letters to the court expressing support for Boucher, saying what a kindhearted person he is and how he suffered some tough breaks in life. However, "he was put in a substantial position of trust by the parents, the school and the children. Unfortunately, Mr. Boucher took advantage of that trust not just for a short period but over the span of months."
Widseth also suggested that, because the Fisher School District is subject to litigation in this matter, the judge be wary of letters received from staff asserting that the victims are playing with other children and acting like "normal" kids while at school. "Make no mistake, entire lives will be affected by this."
Calling this the "worst crime" because it is against the helpless who feel most safe with the perpetrator, Widseth said even a 168-month sentence is "substantially shorter than what these victims will suffer the rest of their lives."
"In my 15-plus years as an attorney, I have never seen a case like this," Boucher's attorney, Alexander Reichert, began his arguments for the lower-end sentence of 144 months. "This young man has had a lot of strife in his short life, and even he can't explain why he's done these things."
Reichert cited a number of troubles Boucher experienced, including witnessing abuse by his father both to him and others, being sexually abused by a babysitter when he was nine years old, suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and becoming chemically dependent.
"He was smoking marijuana daily while in school," said Reichert. "This is a person who is not described by this crime, but a wonderful, caring person who has spent many hours wrestling with this and is very remorseful and wants to ensure that he doesn't ever do this again."
Boucher, who was unable to finish school and graduate due to his arrest, has been working toward his GED while incarcerated, he added. He wants to better himself by going through chemical abuse and psychological treatment and attending technical college and get his life on track.
"I'm not here to say these are any excuses," he said, "He needs to be punished, but what is the appropriate sentence? A sentence of 144 months will give him the chance to use the programs available under supervised release to make something of himself.
Marben noted that he did take Boucher's young age and problems he encountered while growing up into consideration for sentencing.