May 21, 2014

Ex-Wayne State football player gets unanimous pardon for juvenile sex crime

5-21-2014 Nebraska:

Randy Weich knows he can’t escape his past, but on Tuesday he was handed a chance to build a future.

The Nebraska Board of Pardons voted unanimously to pardon Weich for a sex crime he committed as a juvenile but was convicted of as an adult.

The vote prompted cheers, tears and hugs among Weich’s supporters at a hearing in the State Capitol.

More important for Weich, clemency will remove his name from the sex offender registry, which he said revives his dream of playing professional football. Weich, 25, was a standout punter for Wayne State College, and he believes that teams may have withheld free-agent offers because of his criminal status.

“I’m just grateful,” Weich said after the hearing.

The odd circumstances of the conviction, along with Weich’s otherwise exemplary life, persuaded the board to depart from a policy that requires pardon applicants to live crime-free for 10 years after completing their sentences. Weich successfully completed probation in 2007.

“Is this a unique case where we can break our 10-year rule?” asked Attorney General Jon Bruning, a member of the board. “To me, it is.”

The board also rarely grants pardons to sex offenders. But Weich’s crime did not involve a physical assault, which was a mitigating factor for the board.

Gov. Dave Heineman and Secretary of State John Gale are also on the board.

In 2003, when Weich was 14, he and two male classmates made a secret video of three female classmates in the bathroom of Weich’s home in Pierce, Nebraska.

Three years later, the video was discovered by the girls and turned over to police. By then, Weich had turned 18, and he was convicted of two counts of child pornography.

He did not distribute the video and there was no evidence that it was used for sexual gratification. The prosecutor did not charge the two other classmates.

Besides probation, Weich also had his name placed on the sex offender registry for 25 years.

No letters of opposition to Weich’s pardon application were received, said Sonya Fauver, the board’s administrator.

The father of one of the women on the tape told The World-Herald in March that the crime caused psychological harm to his daughter and he resented that Weich never apologized.

After the hearing, Weich said he had been advised by his attorney not to contact the victims at the risk of causing trauma. But he said he is deeply sorry for what he did.

Gale, who said the video had to be humiliating and hurtful to the girls, questioned why Weich didn’t destroy it before it was discovered and turned over to authorities. He also wanted to know if he showed it to others.

Weich said he forgot about the video and denied, under oath, that he ever played it after it was made.

Bruning said had the video been turned over a month earlier, when Weich was still 17, he probably would have been charged as a juvenile.

Psychologists concluded that Weich is not a sexual predator and represents a minimal risk to reoffend. Among those who submitted a record 93 letters in support of Weich’s pardon were his sentencing judge and the psychologist who treated him while he was on probation.

Despite the challenges of being branded a sex offender, Weich stayed in school and obtained a degree in business management from Wayne State.

Whether he gets a shot at professional football or not, he said, he hopes the pardon will allow him to pursue a career in business.

He credited his family and friends with helping him rebuild his life.

“Nobody would let me start sliding,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.” ..Source.. by Joe Duggan

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