Former church leader sentenced for molesting boys

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: February 24, 2012, 5:26 PM

 

A former volunteer church leader who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two teenage boys during private devotions has avoided a lengthy prison sentence.

Judge Dan Stahnke on Friday gave Jason L. Wolk, 26, of Vancouver the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, which allows offenders to undergo therapy at their own expense.

The sentencing alternative means Wolk will spend a year in the county jail and then be under community custody with intense therapy for 4½ years.

If Wolk violates terms of his sentencing alternative, Stahnke said he will revoke the treatment option and send him to prison for 4½ years, the midpoint of the standard sentencing range for the crime.

“Make this work,” the judge said sternly, after handing down the sentence.

Wolk pleaded guilty Dec. 8 to indecent liberties and two counts of third-degree child molestation in connection to abusing two boys he knew through Vancouver Wesleyan Church. He molested them during private devotions designed to help with their “Christian life walk.”

At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, Deputy Prosecutor Anna Klein had argued that Wolk should not receive the sentencing alternative because the “victims and guardians are adamantly against SSOSA,” she said, as the boys’ family members sat behind her.

Klein also noted that Wolk admitted during his pre-sentence investigation that in a separate incident he had also inappropriately touched another 16-year-old boy while he slept.

“He is essentially abusing his position of trust as a role model,” she said.

In arguing for SSOSA, defense attorney Jon McMullen said his client should be eligible for the program because he’s never had run-ins with the law and was found by psychologists to be amenable to treatment. McMullen also cited the victims’ older ages.

“I have never had a client who is a better candidate for SSOSA,” McMullen said. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

After hearing the attorneys’ arguments as well as the victims’ family members speak, the judge said he thought SSOSA would better serve the community by allowing Wolk to receive the treatment he needed.

The judge told Wolk, “I’m not entirely convinced you are” a perfect candidate for the therapy program and warned him that he could quickly revoke his treatment and send him to prison if he slipped up.

“I don’t think you get it. This is all about Jason,” Stahnke said, referring to written statements that Wolk made about the crimes. “This is not about you. It’s about the people you’ve victimized. And this can be handled in treatment.”

But the sentencing alternative did not bode well for some victims. Outside court, a relative of one of the victims called the sentence a “slap on the wrist.”

“I’m really disgusted,” a grandmother of one of the boys said. “I don’t think justice has been served here today.”

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.