Van Dyke gets 81⁄2 years in community corrections
ASPEN ” A judge on Monday sentenced Snowmass Village resident Shaun Van Dyke to spend eight-and-a-half years at a community corrections center as punishment for attempted sexual assault on a child about a year ago.
Noting that Van Dyke, 24, has no criminal record and has a history of doing community service and church work, Ninth Judicial District Judge James Boyd said that while the defendant could not be considered “a violent offender,” his crimes must be taken seriously.
“To victimize a child,” Boyd said, “to essentially breach a position of trust … is of great concern to the community. (It) makes the entire community concerned about the safety of its public places.”
Van Dyke, a former employee of the Aspen Recreation Center, pleaded guilty in July to three counts of attempted sexual assault on a child between August and October 2004. The illicit relationship, which began after the two met at the ARC, came to light after the 13-year-old girl told her mother about it.
Referring to a letter of support from one of the defendant’s friends, which noted his “excellent … customer service skills,” the judge said such skills are to be viewed as a tool in social interactions.
“Like any tool, it can be used or misused,” he said. “In this case, you misused the tools that you had.”
Prosecutor Andrew Heyl maintained that the judge should simply send Van Dyke to prison for the maximum possible sentence of nine years ” three years for each offense ” and argued that such a sentence would send a message to the community “that this is a very serious crime and it will not be tolerated.”
Boyd went to some lengths to stress that he was in no way minimizing Van Dyke’s crimes, starting with a simple rejection of defense attorney John Van Ness’ recommendation that Van Dyke be sentenced to 90 days of supervised probation per count.
“This is not a probation case, in my view,” the judge said.
But he also said that rehabilitation is one of the goals of the judicial system, and seemed to give better marks to the quality of rehabilitation therapy available in the community corrections system than in the prisons.
Boyd disputed characterizations of the El Paso County Community Corrections facility as “a halfway house,” noting that it is a residential facility with “a difficult program.”
He cited statements from the Ninth Judicial Probation Department that only about half of those who enter the program are able to complete it successfully. And those who wash out, he reminded Van Dyke, serve out the remainder of their sentences in the Department of Corrections prison system.
Only Dr. William Mitchell, a local pediatrician who has been treating the victim in the case, came forward to testify at the sentencing hearing
Saying he was “disgusted” by Van Dyke’s behavior, Mitchell told the judge, “This [the victim] is still a young lady who is hurting very much … she has not gotten on with her life.”
Mitchell expressed concern over the message that Van Dyke’s sentencing would send, noting that young girls in the community regularly “dress scantily or provocatively” and must be assured that they are safe from sexual predators.
The judge cautioned Van Dyke that “you have not taken full responsibility (for the offenses) … there is a shift to the victim … of being the initiator of what happened.”
Regarding the three sexual encounters listed in the charges against Van Dyke, the judge noted that even if he were to accept Van Dyke’s claim that the victim was somehow complicit in the first count, what happened afterward was up to Van Dyke.
“You knew your behavior was criminal,” he told the defendant, who sat silently throughout the hearing. The judge said the seriousness of the offenses deepened over the months of the relationship, prompting him to sentence Van Dyke to two and a half years for the first encounter, and three years each for the subsequent incidents.
The sentence, Boyd said, should be “an appropriate deterrence” to such behavior in Pitkin County.
Van Dyke also was given 293 days worth of credit for time served in the Pitkin County Jail while his case was being decided.
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