Man sentenced to 9 years in sexual abuse case
BEMIDJI — Emotions were raw in Beltrami District Judge Paul Benshoof’s courtroom as 24-year-old Karl John Sauer was convicted and sentenced Monday for molesting a 6-year-old girl in his care in the summer of 2010.
For the charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, Sauer was sentenced to nine years in prison — of which the Bemidji man must serve at least six years. Upon release, he will be placed on 10 years probation.
Benshoof said he wished he could have sentenced Sauer to a longer term, but was prevented from doing so due to the plea agreement reached in February between Sauer’s attorney, Rory Durkin, and the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office.
Sauer did, however, receive the maximum penalty as outlined by the state’s sentencing guidelines. While Sauer’s crime — forcing the victim to perform oral sex and sodomizing the girl — was in itself horrific, Benshoof said, it was Sauer’s statement in court that caused harsh criticism from the judge.
“I’m actually pretty stunned by your statement,” Benshoof told Sauer. “It was all about you. Not one word about the victim.”
In pleading guilty to the charge, Sauer admitted to sexually abusing the child twice in June 2010. The child was living in the same home as Sauer and his girlfriend. Following the discovery of abuse, Sauer’s twin daughters he has with the girlfriend were taken into protective custody.
Also in the complaint were graphic details discovered in interviews with the victim by staff at the Family Advocacy Center. The complaint read, in part, that “during her relationship with Sauer, the victim revealed a number of disgusting sexual paraphilias” and that Sauer viewed pornography on “multiple occasions” while engaging in sexual conduct with the victim.
Sauer’s father, who sobbed heavily while addressing the court, said with treatment, his son “could be helped.”
“As a parent, as a grandparent, I tried to come up with some words to say about this and there just aren’t any,” he said. “Just incredible sadness every day. I pray for all involved.”
Sauer and his father embraced in a tearful hug, grasping hands before it was Sauer’s turn to speak. In a nearly seven-minute statement to the court, Sauer never mentioned specifically his molestation of the child. He criticized the treatment he has been undergoing with the Upper Mississippi Health Center, and spoke about the abuse handed out by fellow Beltrami County Jail inmates.
“I’ve been knocked out in this jail, I’ve been to the (emergency room) getting stitches,” he said. “I’ve spent 306 days in this jail, 140 of them in total isolation.”
Sauer also spoke about what he called a “life of immorality” and mentioned what he believed was unfair treatment.
“If you’re a relative of a sheriff you get six months in jail,” Sauer said in reference to the sentence of six months and 25 years probation given to 61-year-old Rodney Erickson, who pleaded guilty in March to having sexual relations with a 7-year-old girl.
Because Erickson is the brother of Clearwater County Sheriff Mike Erickson, the case was handled by the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office.
“It’s not a mystery what I’m here for, and I’m in no sort of denial about what I did,” Sauer said. “I’m ready to go.”
Before hearing Benshoof’s ruling, Chief Assistant County Attorney Annie Claesson-Huseby briefly addressed the court.
“Sexual abuse doesn’t always leave a mark,” she said. “But the scars last a lifetime.”
Before handing down his sentence, Benshoof replied to Sauer’s complaints about his treatment at the hands of fellow inmates.
“They’re calling you a child molester in jail because you are one,” he said.
“You said ‘stuff happens,’” said Benshoof, referencing Sauer’s statement. “No it doesn’t. You sodomized that girl.”
After being sentenced, Sauer lowered his head, picked up a Bible and his paperwork, and looked back tearfully at his father before leaving the courtroom.