Before starting an eight-year prison sentence, a Juneau man convicted of sexually abusing a young girl gave a tearful apology to the her father during his sentencing hearing this week.
Judge Louis Menendez handed down the sentence for Michael J. Scaggs, 40, on Tuesday and in a second court hearing Friday in Juneau Superior Court. Scaggs also was convicted of indecent photography and possessing child pornography.
According to prosecutors, Scaggs took photographs of a sexual nature of an 11-year-old girl while she slept. Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp said the girl was the daughter of one of Scaggs’ friends. The girl sometimes spent the night at Scaggs’ and his then-wife’s house.
Kemp said the girl awakened the second time it happened in August of last year, and the girl reported it to her father despite Scaggs’ attempts to “shush” her at breakfast the next morning.
The girl’s father appeared in court Tuesday to speak at the sentencing hearing. He broke down in tears, describing his anguish over his self-perception of not being able protect his family. He said Scaggs’ was one of his most trusted friends. He begged him for an explanation.
Scaggs could only apologize.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you or your family,” he said, tearfully. “What I have done has hurt you, it’s hurt all of my family, it’s hurt the community. I take full responsibility for it. I don’t blame anybody else.”
An investigation by law enforcement led to charges of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor for Scaggs’ physical contact with the girl. Subsequent police searches also led to Scaggs being charged with 18 counts of possessing child pornography.
Had the case gone to trial, Assistant Public Defender Eric Hedland said he would have argued in court that the sexual contact was limited to a “brushing” of Scaggs’ hand over the girl’s private parts, and that “I would suggest (the girl) was led to say more” during an interview at the Child Advocacy Center in Juneau.
The images in question also did not meet the legal definition of child pornography, the defense attorney added. He said he would have moved to sever those charges from the child sex abuse case.
Prosecutors offered Scaggs a plea deal that dismissed the first-degree sexual abuse of a minor charge as well as 16 of the 18 child pornography possession charges. He took the deal and pled guilty in June to sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree, which accounts for sexual contact rather than intercourse, one count of taking “indecent” photographs of a child and two counts of child pornography possession.
The plea deal, which Judge Menendez accepted, includes 25 more years of suspended jail time, 10 years probation after release from prison and a requirement to comply with any recommended sexual offender treatment. Scaggs will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Kemp said the deal was appropriate and a “reasonable compromise” given the evidence in the case and considering what the state could or couldn’t have proved at trial. Hedland noted that before the Alaska Legislature upped the prison sentences for sex offenses such as this a decade ago, a person convicted of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree may have gotten just six months to serve.
“This, in my world, this is tons of jail time,” he said, adding that his client did not have a criminal history and has never seen the inside of a jail cell. “This is a huge jail sentence.”