TC man receives one-year jail sentence

TRAVERSE CITY — The clink of chains sounded behind a courtroom door minutes before Jason Thomas Koper stood before a judge.

Koper, 36, on Thursday left the court wearing those chains after 13th Circuit Court Judge Thomas Power sentenced him to one year in jail — the maximum sentence allowed by law for a charge of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The sentence followed a hung jury in a March trial over accusations Koper, a registered sex offender, sexually touched two 14-year-old girls. Koper later pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, admitting he touched one girl’s underwear and another’s inner thigh for a sexual purpose.

“This wasn’t a one-time lapse in judgment,” said Grand Traverse County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg in court. “This wasn’t a mistake.”

Koper in 2003 pleaded guilty to a sex crime, a conviction for which he served a 5-year prison sentence. His attorney Lisa Kirsch Satawa told Power that prison changed Koper’s life, as illustrated by his productive work history and support of family and friends.

It’s a sentiment Koper echoed in a statement he scrawled on a crumpled sheet of yellow paper. He used a lectern to straighten the paper before he read it aloud.

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“Sentence me based on who I am now, not (on) what I did 14 years ago,” Koper said.

Moeggenberg agreed, but pointed toward the accusations from the two girls. Both testified in trial that Koper touched them in separate incidents. Koper’s defense attorneys pointed at inconsistencies in their stories and jurors ultimately couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, even after nine hours of deliberation spanning two days.

The girls returned to the courtroom during sentencing to read statements directed toward Koper. They recounted how they’ve struggled with trust and human contact since he abused them.

Power said the girls’ strength and assertiveness stopped Koper from moving beyond sexual touching. He also said the “backdrop” of Koper’s past behavior warranted consideration and he waived off requests that Koper receive probation.

Koper will spend one year in Grand Traverse County’s jail, minus one day credit for time served, Power said.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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