Saturday, December 09, 2023

Man sentenced in lewd conduct case

Staff Writer | January 20, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — A Sagle man will spend at least five years in prison after accepting a plea deal on a lewd conduct charge.

Forrest Perry Hammond, 75, will likely spend the rest of his natural life in prison for repetitively assaulting one victim over the course of three years, beginning when the victim was a child.

Hammond was originally facing three additional charges of sexual battery against a minor, those charges were dropped in a plea deal on Sept. 9, 2021 in exchange for Hammond pleding guilty to the lewd conduct charge.

“You molested a child over a period of years and that carries great consequences,” said First District Judge Lamont Berecz during the hearing. “Any incarceration I give you, whether it's six months or 15 years, I understand in many respects I’m probably giving you a life sentence — that you very well might die in custody. That’s a hard thing to impose as a judge here. … It’s hard to think that I’m sending someone to potentially die in prison. But I don’t see any way around it Mr. Hammond.”

Hammond repetitively assaulted the victim when she would visit the Sagle residence. According to an affidavit of probable cause, more than one of Hammond’s family members witnessed the abuse. They told Hammond to stop but did not report the crimes to law enforcement.

“Certainly you had to know that what you were doing was wrong. This wasn’t a one-time impulsive act,” Berecz said. “It appears to me that almost every chance you had you took it. …

I find it quite disturbing in this case that you have had previously sexually abused a minor child that was a foster child. That is very alarming to the court.”

According to court documents, the Hammonds were foster care parents in New Mexico in the late ’80s. They lost their license after a foster child came forward with sexual abuse allegations against Hammond. Even though no formal charges were filed, an investigation was conducted in light of the claims, the Hammonds relocated to North Idaho not long after the events.

The victim in this case was too upset to make a statement to the court during sentencing.

Hammond, however, addressed the victim in his statement.

“Thank you to [the victim]. Thank you for having the strength, courage, and fortitude to report what happened to you. I cannot imagine the fear, heartache, and anguish to let someone know you had been violated by me,” Hammond said.

“The road to recovery can be strewn with many temptations and hazards that wish to divert the traveler,” Hammond said addressing the court. “I am determined to make amends for the emotional damage I've caused to [the victim] and the whole family. … I'm ready to accept and comply with the decisions of the court.”

Berecz handed down a 5- to 15-year sentence on Jan. 7. If Hammond is ever released, he will have to register as a sex offender. Court costs, fines, and requests for retribution were waived. He was also given two days credit for time served.

Berecz appeared to struggle with handing down a sentence that could send Hammond to prison for the rest of his natural life. Berecz justified Hammond’s incarceration, citing protection for children in the community and the victim’s right to grow up free from fear of running into Hammond.

Those who are concerned, or have “hunches,” about a person’s actions involving minors should vocalize their concerns to another adult, even if they appear unfounded on the surface — this also applies to family relationships. LillyBrooke Family Justice Center is a local resource that can help advocate for victims and connect them with licensed professionals. They can be reached 24/7 by calling 208-265-3586. There is no time limit for anyone who wishes to pursue justice for sexual assault against minors. In a timely emergency, dial 911.

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