In an emotional change-of-plea and sentencing hearing at the Homer Courthouse on Thursday, a 2.5-year-old case involving a teenage drinking party incident that shocked Homer ended with two brothers, Anthony and Joseph Resetarits, pleading guilty to first-degree harassment of a 17-year-old boy passed out at the party.
Anthony Resetarits, 22, also pleaded guilty to first-degree tampering with evidence, first-degree hindering prosecution, both felonies, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor — his younger brother.
Both men got suspended impositions of sentence, meaning if they comply with terms of probation, the convictions could be set aside.
Kenai Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman sentenced Anthony Resetarits to 120 hours of community work service, 40 months probation and 75 days of “shock time” jail.
He was taken into custody at the end of the hearing and led away in handcuffs by Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Stone, the head of the Anchor Point Post and the trooper who first investigated the case.
Joseph Resetarits, 20, received 80 hours of community work service and five months of probation. His lawyer, Michael Moberly, said he plans to join the military. Assistant district attorney Paul Miovas suggests Resetarits could do community service by speaking about his case and issues like teenage drinking and hazing.
In new information at the hearing about the September 2012 incident at an East End
Road home, Miovas described the victim as going through what started as pranks like writing on him with markers and escalated to having his eyebrows and head shaved, his pants and underwear pulled down, and finally being sexually assaulted with an object.
“This is the issue in this case. Apparently in Homer there was a mentality among the youth that this was acceptable behavior,” Miovas said. “There is something really wrong with what’s going on here.”
Miovas said that because of that attitude, one purpose of the sentencing should be to deter further such behavior.
“I understand that, but I don’t need to convict Homer,” Bauman said.
Although some friends of the boy later helped, bystanders egged each other on in what the judge called “a mob,” and many took photos and videos — recordings that Anthony Resetarits admitted to encouraging people to delete. Bauman said that as one of the older people at the party, Anthony Resetarits was one of the few who could have done something to stop the assault.
In a statement before his sentencing, Anthony Resetarits took blame for his crimes. He described how he had gone to the party with his younger brother after a Homer High School Mariners football victory, how he wrote on the boy while he was drunk, how he pretended to tap the object while it was in the boy, and how he and Joseph Resetarits posed for a photograph — one of only six recovered — standing behind the boy with their hands on the object.
Miovas agreed that was Joseph Resetarits’ only offense: posing for the photo.
“I will try to apologize to the young man and his family. I would like to try to apologize to the community,” Anthony Resetarits said in his statement. “Once again I am so sorry to the young man. I am so sorry to his mother. I am so sorry for the embarrassment that I put on this community.”
Joseph Resetarits also apologized.
“I am deeply sorry for the things that happened that night and the involvement I had,” he said. “I just hope from this day forward, after today everyone can start to move on and in the future I can declare myself a person who will try to help those who need help.”
The victim declined to make a statement, but his mother did speak. She said the continual delays as the case proceeded showed that the system was broken. She said she had read letters submitted by people in the community defending Anthony Resetarits and asking that he be given a second chance so he could go to medical school. People wrote that Anthony Resetarits already had experienced shame and hardship as the charges hung over him.
“What about the shame and hardship and damage to my son?” she asked. “I had to take my son out of state where I’ve not seen him all this time. … My son has been suffering emotionally because of the harm done to him.”
The mother asked that the brothers get the maximum jail time of up to two years on the felony charges for Anthony Resetarits and up to 90 days for the harassment charges for both.
Anthony and Joseph Resetarits had been charged earlier with second-degree sexual assault, but Bauman dismissed those charges last year after their defense lawyers challenged a grand jury indictment.
In a press release, Anthony Resetarits’ lawyer, Phillip Weidner, said neither brother committed sexual offenses.
“Anthony and Joseph were subjected to false charges of committing sexual offenses, and were pilloried in public opinion by persons who did not know the true facts,” Weidner said. “This included press reports that repeated untrue allegations. Anthony and Joseph and their family have been repeatedly subjected to public anger, allegations and disparaging statements as a result of those false charges.”
Miovas said he understood the defendants had been charged with second-degree sexual assault and that the harassment charges were different charges.
“This is not a concession that a sexual assault did not take place that night,” Miovas said. “That is still the state’s position: It happened.”
The assistant district attorney asked for more jail time, two years with 18 months suspended for Anthony Resetarits on the hindering prosecution charge and one year with one year suspended on the tampering with evidence charge. Miovas also asked for 90 days flat time on the second-degree harassment charges and five years probation for Anthony Resetarits.
Miovas admitted both men showed excellent chances of rehabilitation, but asked that a stiffer penalty be imposed to deter similar behavior by other youth and to show community condemnation.
If photos and videos had not been destroyed, and there had been more evidence to support charges against other individuals, Miovas said he would not have charged them as individuals but as individuals and accomplices. An information document and sentencing memorandum named other men and juveniles Miovas also said he believed had been involved in the incident, but those people were not charged. One boy, then 16, also has been charged in the incident, but because he was a juvenile, records have been sealed and the outcome of the case is unknown.
Other suspects told troopers they didn’t commit the sexual assault, that other people did it, Miovas said. He found that troubling.
“Had I done what I just said and charged all the men, everyone of them would be sitting in front of you saying, ‘I wasn’t the one doing it,’“ Miovas said. “None of these kids got it. They were all deceptive, they were all misleading to the troopers … No one wants to take ownership of what happened to this young man that night.”
Miovas also said the reaction of some in Homer bothered him. If the victim had been a 17-year-old girl, no one would have disputed prosecutors should have pursued sexual assault charges.
Bauman spoke of community condemnation as a factor in his sentencing.
“The word has to go out to the community that attacks like this will not be tolerated,” Bauman said. “I think there has been community condemnation for that conduct and I think the community condemnation has been strong.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.