Willmar businessman to be re-sentenced on two criminal sexual conduct charges
WILLMAR - Willmar businessman Peter Hoagland, currently serving nearly 19 years in prison for sexually abusing young boys in the 1980s and 1990s, will be re-sentenced on two counts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
WILLMAR – Willmar businessman Peter Hoagland, currently serving nearly 19 years in prison for sexually abusing young boys in the 1980s and 1990s, will be re-sentenced on two counts, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
Kandiyohi County District Court Judge Jennifer Fischer originally handed Hoagland the 18½-year sentence, nearly three times more severe than is standard for the charges, following Hoagland’s October 2015 guilty plea to four counts each of second- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In a decision that may significantly decrease Hoagland’s prison time, Tuesday’s appellate court ruling determined that the Kandiyohi County court had been wrong to sentence Hoagland so severely on two counts.
One count in particular was responsible for much of Hoagland’s prison time: a second-degree criminal sexual conduct charge. The charge had a typical sentence of 3½ years in prison, according to sentencing guidelines.
But citing aggravating factors of extreme vulnerability/abuse of trust, planning, particular cruelty, and long-term psychological injury, the judge sentenced Hoagland to three times that: 138 months, or 11½ years.
On Tuesday, the Court of Appeals ruled that some of those factors should not have been taken into account: namely, abuse of trust and particular cruelty.
Abuse of trust is already used by prosecutors to determine the severity of a charge, the state appellate court ruled.
The charges against Hoagland stemmed from the alleged sexual assault of five different children at his home, his cabin on Diamond Lake and at his business, Pete’s Communications Inc. of Willmar.
Kandiyohi County prosecutors had argued that Hoagland had used a bait-and-switch approach to trick his victims into performing sexual acts. But in an opinion released Tuesday, Court of Appeals Judge Renee Worke wrote that using deceit to gain isolation was not “particular cruelty,” defining that term instead as typically involving infliction of physical pain.
The three-judge panel that considered the case reversed that sentence, writing that the Kandiyohi County District Court should re-sentence Hoagland to no more than twice the standard 3½-year sentence on that charge.
The Court of Appeals also reversed the upward departure from sentencing guidelines for one of the fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges, again ruling that particular cruelty and abuse of trust were not valid aggravating factors to warrant Hoagland receiving a two-year sentence on that charge instead of the typical one-year sentence.
“We reverse and remand this sentence to allow the district court to reconsider whether a double upward departure is appropriate,” Worke wrote.
In the same order, the court denied three other requests Hoagland made in his appeal. He wanted his prison sentences served at the same time, instead of one after another. He argued his guilty plea was invalid, and he wanted less severe sentencing on all eight counts due to his remorse, age, prior record and cooperation.
Worke wrote that Kandiyohi County was correct to sentence Hoagland consecutively and correct to deny his argument at sentencing for a downward departure, which would have been less severe than sentencing guidelines recommend.
She also wrote that Hoagland’s guilty plea was supported by a factual basis.
It was submitted as a Norgaard plea, in which a defendant asserts they have no recollection of the alleged events, but acknowledges they may be found guilty by a jury, and claim no innocence.
“Hoagland testified that he wanted to accept responsibility for what he had done and that he had reviewed the record,” Worke wrote. “And based on the evidence against him believed it was in his best interests to plead guilty.”
A new sentencing date for the charges has not been set. Hoagland is currently incarcerated at Minnesota Correctional Facility - Rush City.
Immediately after Hoagland’s December 2015 sentencing, his attorney Daniel Mohs told media that he believed there were errors in how sentencing guidelines were applied.
“We anticipate filing an appeal,” he said in 2015, hoping to shave 6 to 7 years off of Hoagland’s sentence.
Hoagland was represented by different counsel for his appeal.
Two civil personal injury lawsuits against Hoagland and his business for the alleged sexual conduct are ongoing in Kandiyohi County District Court.
(To read the entire 25-page ruling, click here . Readers should be advised the ruling graphically describes details of the case.)