DAY OF RECKONING—Amos Oxereok talks with his attorney James Ferguson at his sentence hearing Feb. 28 in Nome. Oxereok received jail time in a sexual assault case involving 13 school girls in Wales.

Oxereok sentenced to 20 years in jail for child sex abuse

Amos Oxereok said he deserved prison for sex abuse of his students. All victims lived in the village where he grew up and went to school. He pleaded guilty to crimes that occurred in 2014.
The Bering Strait School District employed Oxereok, 45, as a computer technician and teacher at the school from 2012 to 2016.
The court case opened in August 2016 when Alaska State Troopers received a report of sex abuse at the Wales School. Authorities brought several girls ages nine to 14 by airplane to the Nome Child Advocacy Center for video recorded interviews.
An affidavit based on investigations of Trooper Honie Culley, Trooper Timothy Smith and Trooper Eileen Witrosky said Oxereok had touched the girls inappropriately.
The State of Alaska charged Oxereok on seven counts relating to molestation. Oxereok had waived indictment by a grand jury and pleaded guilty in 2017 to two counts of Sexual Abuse of A Minor-under 13 years of age.  The court dismissed two counts of Sex Abuse of A Minor under 16 and three counts of Harassment— Offensive Physical Contact.
Oxereok agreed to an aggravator that victims were more than 10 years younger than he. An aggravator is a negative factor that would make a sentence more severe.
Oxereok appeared in Superior court at Nome on Feb. 27 for sentencing. Prosecution asked for a long sentence, plus a lengthy probationary term. Second District Superior Court Judge Romano DiBenedetto handed down a sentence of 30 years with 20 years suspended for each of the two counts, plus 10 years’ probation following release. Oxereok must serve the two 10-year jail stretches consecutively, adding up to 20 years, or less, if Oxereok qualifies for good time release.  He must go into police stations and register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
In the sentence hearing, several parents, some relatives of Oxereok, came forward with comment on the tragedy the crimes brought to the victims, the families and the village, the hurting mentally and spiritually.  People gave words to their feelings of devastation and sorrow concerning Oxereok’s abuse of little girls, some of whom he lured to his room with a Barbie doll video, according to Thomas Jamgochian, assistant district attorney.
Some family members spoke in court, some had called into the hearing by phone and waited to have their say.
A distraught dad asked Oxereok why he had done it.  “Why did you have to do such a thing? Why? Why?” he asked.
Another person begged the judge to “put him away as long as you could, not in Wales, give him what you can give him, please. I am asking nicely, give him the limit,” the person said.
“I don’t want the girls to see him. There were 13 girls. He molested a whole generation in the village.  Whatever the sentence,” the person said, “let Amos not ever come into contact with any young kids.”
“I don’t know what Amos was thinking about to hurt children in this way,” another Wales village member said. “I feel awful that I couldn’t protect them because I didn’t know what was happening.”
“Nothing will make the girls feel safe again,” Jamgochian said. A report described Oxereok as a serial molester. The situation was not fleeting contact with the girls, but a crime that involved deliberate steps and planning, Jamgochian added.
“He took deliberate calculated steps to avoid detection, befriending the girls and giving them presents to lower their resistance to abuse.”
James Ferguson, attorney with the Alaska Public Defender Agency, assisted Oxereok with his case.   
Ferguson voiced agreement with Jamgochian that a sentence was not capable of undoing the harm imposed on the victims by Oxereok. However, he had suggested a lighter sentence: 10 years for the crimes was long enough, saying that stiffer sentences lined up with jail time for certain murders. He suggested 15 years with 10 suspended for each count. Oxereok would always be a felon, which would affect employment and housing assistance, he said. His family had excommunicated him.
“Whenever he looks for a job, it will be inescapable for him,” Ferguson said. Some people were deterred by the court process itself. The pain of the court process and the jail experience would make it unlikely Oxereok would offend again, Ferguson explained. Ten years was a long time for Oxereok, as he had not been in trouble before, no felonies, no alcohol, no drug related offenses.
When the time came for Oxereok to talk about his crimes, he pulled his microphone closer and read his statement.
”I know I’ve ruined my life, the life of those girls, my family—the whole village was my family,” Oxereok said in part. “I want to apologize to all those I’ve hurt.”
He and members of his family had been through sex abuse themselves, Oxereok said. “I can’t believe I became a monster and part of what I hate and fear. I need jail time, and I leave that up to your honor.”
Nothing he would say in sentencing would restore any lives in the community, which had been damaged, DiBenedetto told Oxereok. He spoke of the Chaney Criteria, a law that guides the court in sentencing —to consider restoration of the offender in the community, deterrence of others, confinement, criminal history, number of victims and the seriousness of the crime.
“There is nothing I can do to fix them,” he said of the girls who would have to have counseling for a long time.  Another requirement in assigning a sentence—deterrence—would have to be achieved with the sentence. The sentence had to result in confining Oxereok to prevent more harm and protect the community, DiBenedetto said. As far as rehabilitation, when a whole generation of a village had been offended over an extended period he did not know how long it would take to turn the damage around. The abuse had occurred in a small community directed at the youth, the worth of the community greater than money, attacking the heart and soul of the community, DiBenedetto said.
“One attribute of the community is trust, when the community is hours away from law enforcement [off the road system]. Such a violation of trust is devastating for a community like Wales,” DiBenedetto added.
The sentences must be run one after another, DiBenedetto said—30 years with 20 suspended for each of the two counts on which Oxereok had been convicted, followed by 10 years’ probation following release, with conditions to be determined by the office of probation.
Perusal of a list of 20 special probation conditions several days later showed that Oxereok may not have contact with youngsters without written permission of his probation officer. Oxereok must undergo sex offender and risk evaluation to determine his need for sex offender counseling, treatment and monitoring and follow all recommendations.
The sentencing clears the way for a law suit to continue that parents filed in 2017, on behalf of the children, against the Bering Strait School District with Oxereok as third-party defendant. The suit asks for $100,000 for each victim, plus damages the court deems appropriate, saying that the district failed to protect the children against Oxereok, an employee. That trial is tentatively penciled onto the court calendar for about a year from now.

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