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Grand Forks man gets 30 years in sex abuse case

GRAND FORKS - Calling it "probably the most heinous child-abuse case" he's seen in 20 years on the bench, Judge Lawrence Jahnke sentenced a Grand Forks man Tuesday to 30 years in prison for repeatedly molesting a young girl.

"You robbed a 6-year-old girl of her innocence," the judge said. "You continued to abuse her, by your own admission, for six years."

Timothy James Olson, 35, had pleaded guilty to a Class AA felony charge of sexually abusing a child. The abuse took place from January 2000, when the girl was about 6 years old, to December 2006, according to a criminal complaint.

During that period, Olson abused the girl, who now is 15, about three times a week, prosecutor Meredith Larson said.

"To say that this child has been seriously harmed is -- it can't even be expressed in words," Larson told the judge.

With the girl's relatives and supporters in the courtroom, Olson apologized for his actions.

"I don't deny what I did. What I did was heinous," he said. "I struggle on a daily basis, coming to terms with what I did."

The judge rejoined, telling Olson, "We have also a 15-year-old victim who is going to struggle every day of her life with what you did to her."

'A night's sleep'

Larson said troubling details emerged when authorities interviewed Olson about the abuse.

"He groomed this child. He admitted it in his interview to Mike Iwan," Larson said, referring to the Grand Forks detective. "He played games with her that are used for innocent childhood games -- I spy, hide-and-seek -- in an effort to make her compliant."

Larson said Olson described the victim as being a willing participant who enjoyed and sought out the sexual contact.

"The defendant portrays this girl as someone he had chemistry with ... that he had intimate partner feelings toward her," Larson said.

Larson said the girl, who now attends weekly counseling sessions because of what happened, deserves justice.

"She should be able to be provided with a night's sleep without worrying about the defendant's behavior."

Confession

Public Defender David Ogren acknowledged his client's offense was heinous but asked the judge to consider that Olson confessed to the crime and cooperated with authorities.

Detective Iwan, who attended Tuesday's sentencing, learned of the abuse after it was reported to Grand Forks County Social Services, according to a court document.

"In Mr. Olson's defense, he was decent to work with," Iwan said outside of court. "Once he was accused, he did come forward."

Iwan said he interviewed Olson for 2½ hours but got no answer to the question: "What possessed him to do this?"

Larson asked the judge to impose a sentence of 50 years with 20 suspended, but said the prosecution would not be opposed to a life sentence, adding that the victim's mother requested Olson serve a life term. Ogren recommended a sentence of 20 years with 10 suspended.

Ultimately, Jahnke ordered Olson to serve 60 years with 30 suspended.

Olson, who had no prior convictions, also must undergo a sex offender evaluation, have no contact with the victim and serve 10 years of supervised probation upon release. He received credit for more than six months already served in jail.

Larson said investigators have found four pornographic images of prepubescent children on Olson's computer. That investigation is ongoing, and Olson has not been charged.

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