A Juneau man arrested in 2019 for more than a dozen charges, including sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor, was sentenced to more than 22 years imprisonment on Thursday.
Wilbur W. James Jr., 66, was found guilty in February by a trial jury on 14 charges and sentenced to 22 years and 60 days imprisonment by Judge Daniel Schally.
Charges included felony second-degree sexual assault, second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, third-degree sexual assault, five counts of attempted indecent viewing/photography of a minor, and six counts of attempted indecent viewing/photography.
James was charged for offenses that occurred over a span of three decades against multiple victims. Bailey Woolfstead, leading the prosecution, said that James used his position in the family as a provider to exploit victims, silencing them.
A pattern of behavior
“These aren’t the actions of someone who shows remorse,” Woolfstead said. “The insidious nature of his actions over the past three decades can’t be overstated.”
Woolfstead also pointed out that James steadfastly defended his actions in court, claiming he was asleep or sleepwalking, and that he committed offenses when his victims were physically or emotionally vulnerable.
“Mr. James is manipulative. He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Woolfstead said. “He lied about text messages until he couldn’t. He lied about the photos until he couldn’t. He lied about sleepwalking until he couldn’t.”
Witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense spoke during the sentencing hearing.
“We are sure any apologies uttered up to this point will be self serving and hollow,” said a letter from the victims to the court, read by Woolfstead. “We cry for banishment of this dangerous predator.”
Grandmother of the victims Myrna Brown also spoke.
“No child deserves to be molested, touched inappropriately, anything,” Brown said. “Now, I believe in karma. Karma has reached you.”
Nicholas Polasky, defending James, spoke on the possibility of rehabilitation.
“I do not share the prosecution or victims’ point of view that rehabilitation is not possible,” Polasky said. “I just don’t share that notion.”
Others testified on James’ behalf, saying they relied on his presence as a caregiver, or his presence as a notional head of the family. James himself also spoke, saying he was sorry and expressing his interest in rehabilitative programmings.
Schally said that James’ history of crimes against people reaching back decades brought the phase “it’s difficult to teach an old dog new tricks” to mind, in his reasoning for the sentence he handed down.
“The fact that the criminal history goes back as far as it does is troubling,” Schally said.
Schally said James’ pattern of behavior, both in the past and in his testimony during the trial itself, made Schally guarded against the possibility of successful rehabilitation in the sentencing.
“There is a demonstrated history that the court believes exists, of prior offenses very similar to which Mr James is being sentenced today,” Schally said. “James only gave ground when faced with really unassailable evidence contrary to what he was asserting.”
The maximum sentence for James’ charges for which he was found guilty was 99 years, Schally said, but it had been neither sought nor would be delivered in this case.
“We as a society, as a norm, abhor crimes against children,” Schally said. “These sorts of offenses usually do by their very nature have more impact on victims than some sorts of other crimes.”
James will also have 10 years monitored probation and is required to register as a sex offender, among other conditions, Schally said.
“The court can’t give these girls what they lost,” Woolfstead said. “But the court can give them closure and a sense of justice.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.