After more than four years of court proceedings and connections to the Alaska Legislature, a highly publicized case finally came to a conclusion Friday.
Ty Alexander Charles Grussendorf, 24, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for two charges of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor for sexual relationships with two underage girls.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip M. Pallenberg handed down the sentence in front of a packed courtroom Friday, and said the full sentence is 14 years, but eight and a half years are suspended. He’ll be on probation for 10 years after getting out, Pallenberg ruled.
Grussendorf pleaded guilty in October 2018 to the charges. The case gained statewide attention when Grussendorf’s father — who worked for a legislator — unsuccessfully lobbied the Alaska Legislature in 2016 to change the age at which a person can be charged with an underage sex offense.
The younger Grussendorf spoke for a few minutes Friday, accepting responsibility for his actions and specifically mentioned the two victims in the case in his comments.
“I had absolutely no right to take advantage of (the two girls),” Grussendorf said in court. “I understand that my actions were wrong and they were criminal.”
Both attorneys said in court that they have full confidence in Grussendorf’s prospects for rehabilitation. Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige said it’s rare for her to say it, but she said she doesn’t expect Grussendorf to violate his probation after he gets out of prison.
There were around 20 people in court Friday, many of whom were friends and family of Grussendorf. Grussendorf’s attorney John Cashion pointed this out, saying that the family has rallied around Grussendorf and that they’ve acknowledged that Grussendorf did something wrong but that he’s taken responsibility.
“This has been extremely difficult for him,” Cashion said, “and he has really been ostracized in the community when he’s been out on release.”
Grussendorf’s parents declined comment following the hearing.
Cashion called Dr. Mark McClung as a witness. McClung specializes in general and forensic psychiatry, and he is particularly experienced in evaluating sex offenders. McClung testified Friday that he evaluated Grussendorf in 2015 and again in 2018, and that he found both times that Grussendorf has a low chance of committing another hands-on sexual offense.
The case’s history is long and has reached from the Dimond Courthouse to the Alaska State Capitol.
Grussendorf was first indicted in 2015, charged with six counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and one count of attempted sexual abuse of a minor, according to Empire reports. In July 2016, Pallenberg granted a motion to dismiss the indictment because of inadmissible evidence that was given to the grand jury.
While an employee of Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, and the Senate Finance Committee, Ty’s father Tim Grussendorf met with multiple legislators in 2016, according to an October 2016 report from KTUU. He unsuccessfully lobbied to change the age of offenders from 16 or older to 19 or older, with the victim age being lowered to younger than 12 instead of 13, according to the report.
A Juneau grand jury re-indicted Grussendorf in February 2017 on the same charges and added second-degree sexual abuse in reference to the second victim, five charges of child pornography possession and 25 charges of indecent viewing of photography, according to an Empire report at the time. Most of those charges were dismissed over the next year and a half.
The case also played a role last year in former Gov. Bill Walker turning down Grussendorf’s former attorney Julie Willoughby for an open judge position due to comments she made in Grussendorf’s defense.
In court Friday, Paige argued that the sexual exchanges via cellphone seemed to be meant for “grooming” young girls for future in-person sexual acts, essentially talking to them with the intent of having sex with them in the future.
“These are not just sexting cases,” Paige said. “They are serious and they are crimes against children.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.