Prineville resident Brandon James Hunter was given a 25-year prison sentence on Monday, July 27, for multiple child sex abuse offenses.
The sentence, given by Circuit Court Judge Mike McLane, includes no eligibility for any form of early release from custody and a provision for both lifetime supervision and registration as a sex offender. The sentence was the result of a negotiated plea resolution.
According to Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting, Hunter was ordered in 2013 to register as a sex offender for an offense that took place in Washington state. In 2018, he was convicted for separate offenses of failure to report as a sex offender and harassment involving contact with a 12-year-old female, which constituted grooming behavior.
Whiting said that in April 2019, an instructional assistant at a local elementary school reported that a developmentally delayed student asked the staff member to rub her leg. The child said Hunter does this to her and demonstrated physically rubbing her inner thigh near her vaginal area.
The child made other statements suggesting this was not an isolated incident, Whiting said. These statements and other background information were reported to Department of Human Services personnel and a police investigation ensued. Hunter was taken into custody the same day and has remained in the Crook County jail since.
During the investigation, Hunter's cell phone was seized, and a search warrant was obtained. During a forensic evaluation of Hunter's phone, a photograph and two cell phone videos of Hunter perpetrating sex crimes on two different victims was discovered.
Hunter pleaded guilty to first-degree sodomy and first-degree sexual abuse based upon the acts captured on his phone. Prior to sentencing, Hunter, through his attorney, presented a statement to the court.
"I would like to say that I have done an evil thing and there are no words to fix this," the statement read. "There is no way to take back what I have done, but I am truly sorry and want to be a better person not just for myself but for my fellow men and women. I would like to thank the DA for working hard to stop people that have done evil things and to make them pay the price for their evil. I truly hope to God that all this will make me a better person for many years to come. Thank you again and I am truly sorry for all I have done."
According to Whiting, Oregon state law mandates that workers in certain professions, including school district employees, must make reports if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect of a child.
"The instructional assistant in this case was instrumental in protecting this child from future abuse by carefully listening to the child's disclosure and quickly making the necessary report to the child abuse reporting hotline," he stated.
Whiting went on to note that Sgt. Jake Childers and Det. Eric King of the Crook County Sheriff's Office lead the investigation, interviewed multiple witnesses, obtained physical evidence and arrested the defendant.
He also said that DHS and KIDS Center provided invaluable support by conducting forensic interviews and providing support to the victims' family, and pointed out that the Redmond Police Department assisted in the forensic evaluation of the cell phone.
"The Crook County District Attorney's Office is appreciative of the Crook County School District's emphasis on properly training mandated reporters, which lead to this initial report being timely made," Whiting said. "This prosecution would not have been made possible without the collaborative efforts of many of our community agencies working together to protect our community's most vulnerable."
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