January 4, 2008 - 10:00 pm
A former Mormon missionary was sentenced Thursday to two to six years in prison after a judge ruled he violated terms of a plea deal that called for him to complete counseling and community service.
The judge decreed John Misseldine, 26, guilty of lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and coercion, and ordered him to register and submit to monitoring as a sex offender. The felony charges, dating to 2003, had been stayed under terms of the October 2005 plea deal.
“I still maintain my innocence in this case,” Misseldine said when District Judge Donald Mosley asked him to speak.
The judge dismissed Misseldine’s assertions that the claims against him were false and a scheme by the girls’ families to get money from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I’m not buying it, No. 1,” the judge said, “and No. 2, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would they come up with this story? It’s pretty hard to imagine this was just fabricated.”
Defense lawyer Robert Draskovich said outside court that he will appeal.
“This needs to be reviewed by the Nevada Supreme Court,” he said.
The mothers of the young accusers, then 4 and 7, sobbed quietly in the courtroom while Draskovich and prosecutor Lisa Luzaich referred to allegations that the youngest girl also claimed she had been sexually abused by an uncle.
Those charges later were dropped, the girl’s mother said later.
The mother of the older girl, who said outside court she was relieved Misseldine will have to register as a sex offender, called it “ridiculous” to claim the girls made up the stories for money.
“That’s horrible,” she said. “I would never think of having my little girl say these things.”
The Associated Press is withholding the names of the mothers because their daughters are victims of sexual abuse.
Records show civil lawsuits filed in 2005 in Clark County District Court against Misseldine, the Mormon church and others were closed in 2007 after the church set up trust funds of $400,000 for the older girl and $382,000 for the younger girl and her sister.
Misseldine, of Little Rock, Ark., was accused of fondling the two girls while he was baby-sitting them in a classroom during services at a Las Vegas church in 2003.
Draskovich said Misseldine never got a chance to face his accusers or challenge their stories at trial because of the settlement. The lawyer also called it “premature” to revoke Misseldine’s probation after only two of five years.
But Luzaich sought a maximum possible sentence of five to 20 years. She said Misseldine manipulated the court, failed to complete counseling and community service and had not found a full-time job as required.
“He was given the best deal that anyone ever could have gotten in a case like this,” Luzaich told the judge, “and basically he threw it right back in our face and this court’s face.”