CLAASSEN Leslie.jpg

Claassen

A federal judge sentenced a Billings child sex offender on Wednesday to 20 years in prison for receiving child pornography.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull also ordered Leslie Jon Claassen, 50, to spend a lifetime on supervised release for his guilty plea to receiving child porn.

The sentence was about double the guideline range and five years longer than the minimum mandatory 15 years to 40 years that Claassen faced. Neither option was reasonable, Cebull said, given Claassen's history of sex abuse of children, failure in treatment programs and lack of remorse.

"He blames other people. He hasn't learned a thing," Cebull said.

In a statement prepared by Claassen and read by his attorney, Assistant Federal Defender Dave Merchant, Claassen accused Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd of "legally stalking" him and being "vindictive and unfair."

Hurd hated him, Claassen said, because she lost an earlier case against him. Claassen complained that Hurd offered no plea agreement and said he would have taken a 10-year deal.

Cebull noted that another federal judge had dismissed the earlier case, which was prosecuted by another attorney, not Hurd.

Claassen was on state parole and enrolled in a sex offender treatment program in Billings when he was arrested late last year. He had been convicted of sexual abuse of children in Hill County in 2005. One of the terms of his release from Montana State Prison in August 2010 was that he not have computer equipment.

Last Dec. 15, state probation and parole officers visited the local motel where Claassen was living and found a printer and memory card he was using to print child porn images. Claassen also had numerous children's dolls and had written stories fantasizing about having sex with children.

Cebull said the stories, written on 250 pages of loose leaf paper, "describes in perverted detail what goes through the mind of Mr. Claassen."

Merchant recommended a 15-year sentence. Claassen had written the stories to get them out of his mind and didn't act on them, he said.

Hurd didn't specify a sentence but urged the judge to keep Claassen away from children for as long as possible because he couldn't control himself, had been kicked out of four treatment programs and violated release conditions.

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

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