Sentence for convicted sex offender delayed

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writerJanuary 15, 2011 

A convicted sex offender will have to wait at least a week before learning if he will have to serve prison time or get a more lenient sentence with treatment ordered.

Michael L. Deitering, 26, was in Benton County Superior Court on Friday to be sentenced for communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The former Richland man, who now lives in Bellingham, was charged in January 2010 for sending nude photos to a Colorado teen he met online and repeatedly detailing a sex act he would do with her.

Pornographic images of prepubescent girls also were found on his computer when it was analyzed by Richland police.

Deitering, supported by his parents and brother, told Judge Craig Matheson on Friday that he was sorry for what happened when he was in what he called a "dark place."

"I ask to get treatment I need so I can progress ... so I can become another contributing member of society instead of another burden," he said.

Deitering's family described him as a college graduate and Eagle Scout whose actions were out of character and for which he is remorseful.

He faces a standard prison sentence of two years, two months up to two years, 10 months. But he's seeking a special sex offender sentencing alternative that would reduce his jail time and require he complete treatment.

"I think this is a very rare and special case. This is really a very out of character event for him," defense attorney Shelley Ajax said. "He went somewhere in his mental health world where he's never gone before, and I don't think he'll ever go back."

Deitering was living alone in Richland, working at Bechtel National Inc. and isolated from family in Ohio. He said he became depressed and spent much of his time online chatting and playing games, court documents said.

In December 2008, he befriended the Colorado teen on a free online games site and started chatting with her, documents said.

He said they became close and when she told him about problems with her father, he was concerned and called child protective services, documents said.

Deitering said he knew that the girl was underage, but the relationship grew closer and he began having intimate feelings for her, documents said.

He also said their relationship turned sexual -- he sent nude pictures of himself and encouraged her to change her e-mail and send nude pictures of herself to him, documents said.

Deitering admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong, and he felt ashamed, so he turned to websites that condoned the behavior. He also downloaded pictures from those websites, documents said.

A forensic exam of his computer turned up 46 images of prepubescent girls involved in sex acts and in states of undress, documents said.

There were other images where it was difficult to identify the girls' age and chats with other underage girls, documents said.

One was from Prosser and Deitering tried to get the girl to tell her mother that he wanted her to babysit his son so they could meet, documents said. He also asked her to find him a "young girlfriend" as he wants to "get in on all this old guy young teen action," document said.

Ajax said her client has an excellent support structure -- several family members flew to the Tri-Cities in August when they expected Deitering to be sentenced and wrote letters of support to the judge -- and has reached out for help and support.

She said Deitering does "amazing community service," was open and honest during his evaluations and wants treatment.

Ajax asked for special sex offender sentencing or an exceptional sentence below the standard range.

Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor said he didn't think Deitering's case allowed for the special sentencing and recommended a bottom-range sentence.

"Even if you accept the idea that the defendant's a good guy ... but it doesn't take away from the circumstances of this cases," Bloor said.

Matheson said he's willing to give Deitering a sentence that requires treatment, but he didn't think the law allowed it. He delayed sentencing to give attorneys more time to review the law.

"I have to follow the law, and that would eliminate a (special sentence) and require a prison sentence," Matheson said. "I don't know that the case calls for a prison sentence."

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