WALLA WALLA -- A local man who pleaded guilty last month to committing two sex crimes against a 16-year-old girl in 2008 was sentenced this morning to a year in the Walla Walla County Jail, then to undergo up to three years of outpatient sex offender treatment.
Jeffrey Aaron Bruton, 35, of 1600 Gray Lynn Drive, was ordered to serve four months of full confinement in jail, with credit for 95 days he's already served. Once the four-month term is completed, the next eight months can be served in partial confinement for work release under the sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge John Lohrmann.
As part of the sex offender sentencing alternative, Lohrmann suspended a 34-month prison term. But Bruton will be placed on 36 months of community custody, a form of probation, when he's released from jail and must comply with stringent conditions including completion of sex offender treatment.
If he doesn't successfully complete the probationary period, Lohrmann made it clear he would order Bruton to serve the prison term.
Bruton pleaded guilty Nov. 13 to committing the two crimes between March 1 and Aug. 27 of last year. He had faced four charges, but the prosecution agreed to reduce the case against him in exchange for his guilty pleas.
Bruton told Lohrmann this morning he is "extremely saddened by the events that occurred" and hopes with treatment he can rebuild his life. His attorney, William McCool, added that Bruton feels extreme remorse for the pain he has caused and takes responsibility.
"If there were a way to turn back the clock and make things different, he would," McCool said.
In handing down the sentence, Lohrmann reviewed varying recommendations.
Under the plea agreement, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden recommended that because Bruton was found to be amenable to treatment, he receive the suspended prison sentence and spend six months in jail with work release allowed.
Department of Corrections Community Corrections Officer Chris Leyendecker wrote in a report that 34 months in a state prison would be more appropriate because of long-term grooming that Bruton engaged in with the victim, his willingness to manipulate, his "varied and prolific" sexual interests and alcohol addiction.
But Lohrmann ultimately decided on the yearlong jail sentence suggested by Walla Walla police Detective Mike Boettcher, who told Lohrmann at today's hearing that he isn't opposed to a suspended prison term and treatment for Bruton, but that a year would provide "extra accountability" above the six months recommended in the prosecution's plea agreement.
Boettcher said, "This has been a sad case from the very beginning" and the victim has been "deeply hurt."
Lohrmann, too, expressed concern for the victim and acknowledged the issues Leyendecker addressed in his report. But Lohrmann indicated the community would be better served by Bruton undergoing treatment than spending years in prison.
"That's what the (treatment alternative) is for," Lohrmann said.
Terry McConn can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8319.