LACONIA — A Superior Court judge told a former Lakes Region man convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting an adolescent girl that his crimes warranted a “substantial punitive response.”
“You essentially stole a young woman’s childhood,” Judge James D. O’Neill III told Keith Chandler before imposing a 17½-to 40-year prison sentence. Additional sentences totaling 13 to 26 years were suspended, but can be imposed for up to 20 years following Chandler’s release if he fails to remain on good behavior.
Chandler, 48, could be eligible for release after serving 17½ years behind bars, if he successfully completes the sexual offender program, but will remain on parole most likely until his death. He must also register for life as a sex offender against children.
Belknap County Attorney Andrew Livernois asked for a 20-to-40-year prison sentence with an additional 13 to 26 years suspended on the condition of good behavior for 20 years following his release.
“It’s difficult to conceive of a more heinous crime,” he said. Between the ages of 11-16, the victim was subjected to various forms of sexual abuse.
“While she has survived this, she is clearly going to suffer the scars from this for the rest of her life,” the prosecutor said.
Such a punitive sanction was warranted, Livernois said, because of the steps Chandler took to hide his crimes but also the methods he used to manipulate the victim into compliance.
“She felt hopeless and trapped,” he continued.
Testimony at the trial showed that the Division of Children, Youth and Families had investigated and that Chandler lied. His brazen behavior continued in sending both pornography and dirty text messages to the victim.
In poignant comments to the court, the victim said Chandler’s crimes robbed her of what she could have become.
She told the judge she still cries when people raise their voices to her, becomes so anxious that she vomits and is scared to trust people. She said she had to learn that people put their arms around you as a sign of comfort. As a result of the crimes she has lost contact with her mother, an absence she said “breaks my heart more than you could ever know.”
“He has taken my self-confidence, my trust and my self-respect,” she told the judge.
Defense Attorney Caroline Brown argued that a 10 to 20 years behind bars was sufficient to meet the goals of sentencing: punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation. She said the request made by the state was more in keeping with a sentence for a homicide.
Chandler was a volunteer firefighter and EMT for seven years before moving to Alaska and then Indiana. While in both states he was active with The American Legion and helped raise money for homeless veterans. His father, served in Vietnam, Brown told the judge.
A 10-year prison sentence would seem even longer for Chandler she said, as he suffers from a host of medical conditions.
Chandler declined the opportunity to make a statement during the hearing.