The former camp director for Kanakuk Kamps who pleaded guilty to multiple sex crimes involving underage boys was sentenced to two consecutive life terms plus 30 years this afternoon in Taney County.
Peter "Pete" Newman pleaded guilty in February without a plea agreement to two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, and three counts of enticement of a child. Newman admitted he betrayed the trust of underage boys and their parents when he held naked bible study in his hot tub, where he performed masturbation with/or on the boys, performed oral sex with the young men and played naked basketball with the youths.
Every available seat (at least 100 in attendance) in Judge Mark Orr's courtroom was occupied by victims of 34 year-old Newman, their families or supporters of Newman's.
Dr. Anna Salter, a clinical psychologist and author called as an expert witness by the state, said that Newman tested in the low category on a Static 99 test and that she would look at the test scores cautiously. Static 99 is a test that measures sex offenders who get caught, according to Salter. "The likelihood for him to re-offend is there, but socially skilled offenders don't get caught often."
Salter added, "When religion is used in sex abuse cases it can cause kids to lose their faith in God." She said the community response to victims (in this case boys between the ages of 11 & 15) and their families is key to their healing and self worth. "The justice system and sentence is a key part of the healing process." Salter testified that during one interview Newman said, "my heart beats for kids"
When pressed by Newman's defense attorney Tom Carver, Salter said Newman could respond positively to treatment.
Defense attorney Tom Carver
Carver called an expert of his own, Dr. Joseph Plaud, a psychologist from Boston who interviewed Newman at the Taney County jail. He says Newman, "does not suffer from any major psychological disorder/s." He says self doubts, relationship dependency and attention seeking disorders may have played a role in Newman's crimes against children.
Plaud says Newman is not a pedophile because he prefers post-pubescent boys not pre- pubescent boys. He testified that homosexuality was considered wrong and sinful in Newman's childhood home and that he would have to address those issues in prison. Plaud says Newman is a victim of repressed homosexual urges.
Plaud testified that Newman suffers from social and sexual insecurities and that he has a sexual interest in young boys (and girls) between the ages of 12 - 15. He said that once the boys started exhibiting the behaviors of growing into men, he lost interest in them. Both experts noted that Newman had only one female sex partner, but numerous sexual encounters with young boys.
When Taney Couty Prosecutor Jeff Merrell cross examined Plaud, the psychologist admitted that he was aware of a situation at Kanakuk in 2003 where Newman signed a probationary agreement acknowledging sexual improprieties with young boys. Merrell said when pressed by the camp in 2009 about victims, "Newman revealed 15 names and when pressed further, he named additional victims."
Taney County Prosecutor Jeff Merrell
Plaud responded that Newman is not at a moderate or high risk to re-offend, but that does not mean he will not re-offend-- and believes "he (Newman) is amenable to treatment."
When Merrell asked Plaud how much his testimony cost the defense, Plaud replied "$11,500." Plaud said that included a couple of trips to Taney County to visit Newman in jail to analyze him.
None of the victims or their families chose to verbally address the court, instead they wrote their statements to Judge Orr who had already read them before today's proceeding.
Doug Goodwin addressed the court on behalf of Kanakuk Kamp. He has been on the staff of the Christian based youth camp for over 20 years. He said, "All of us at Kanakuk Kamps have been heartbroken over this situation. But I want to be very clear about a couple of things. I am not here to talk about the impact this situation has had on our camps. Frankly, this in not about Kanakuk. Instead, this is about the victims of sexual abuse--young people and parents who were deceived and victimized; young people and parents whose trust was broken. Whether they are campers or staff, they are all part of the Kanakuk family and I am here today simple to support them."
When Goodwin added, "Pete Newman was very aware what he did was legally wrong and of the moral implications," Newman hung his head in shame.
Newman's brother, Matt, addressed the court, "Pete's actions have consequences, and that the victims deserve justice. Your honor, he has lost everything, his home his family and love."
A childhood friend of Newman's, Jamie Thompson, told Judge Orr that "Pete has caused real harm to the victim's, a camp that he loves and his saviour. But I also believe in redemption, and I will walk this path of restoration with Pete."
Newman cried as his twin brother David addressed the court. "I have spent a lifetime with Pete; we have wept and prayed for his victims and long that Pete will be made whole. Please let my father have the chance to look his own son in the eyes in his home to start the restoration process. We will be there for a lifetime for him."
Pete Newman wept, as did his victims, their family members, and supporters of Newman as he addressed the court (KSPR has the raw video and text of Newman's statement,)
"To the victims and to their families, I want you to know how sorry I am for the things I have done. And I would gladly trade my life if I could take back the things that I've done and the pain that I've caused, the devastation. I failed the families I had spiritual leadership of. I apologize to the community, I too want justice for them...I need to go to prison. This is the road that leads to healing for me. But on this road, my sin is uncovered and I think this is the road that leads to healing for me. I'm in a place where I can say, between the two roads, I take this one. I'd take the road of healing. I want to be whole more than I want to be with my family and more than I want to get out of this....I want to be healed.
I imagine I am the worst thing that has ever happened to Kanakuk....but God is there." He said Kanakuk is a lighthouse and not to blame them for the darkness he brought upon them.
Merrell then told Orr that Newman, "is the most prolific child molester I have ever dealt with," before asking for multiple consecutive life sentences.
Judge Orr retired to his chambers to decide Newman's fate for a little over 40 minutes, when he came back and delivered the verdicts it seemed that both side were a little stunned. Merrell said, "I'm satisfied, but there's always a sense of gravity when someone is sentenced to life. Adding, "I have never seen consecutive life sentences in all my years of practice."
Carver said, "It is a pretty severe sentence given Pet's promising ability to being amenable to treatment. His family is heartbroken."
Merrell added that the families of Newman's victims, "felt very hurt and taken advantage of."
Newman could be eligible for parole after serving about 12 years in prison, then his next consecutive sentence would kick in, then the additional 30 year sentence after that. In all, it appears that Newman could be behind bars for at least 36 years. Merrell believes Newman will go to the Department of Corrections and that authorities from Colorado will take him into custody there on sexual molestation charges out of La Plata County.
Authorities in Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and other states have been watching what happens in this case and have expressed interest in Newman for alleged sex crimes against children.
Kevin Fielding, a spokesman for Kanakuk Kamps, says he is not aware of any pending civil litigation against the Branson based camp for Newman's indiscretions while employed by the camp.