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Mark Thorson, former Sandy High School volunteer assistant boys' basketball coach, pleaded guilty Thursday to third-degree sex abuse of a 16-year-old Sandy girl in February.

Thorson, 24 years old at the time of the month-long relationship, admitted to an inapproriate relationship that involved sexual penetration.

In Clackamas County Circuit Court, Judge Kathie Steele was visibly distressed at Thorson's activities with the girl as she sentenced him to three months in jail and three years of formal probation as well as sex-offender registration, counseling and treatment. He also must pay attorney and court costs and fees.

Part of Steele's distress was because the sentence was for reduced charges - a plea bargain.

She could have sentenced him to a year in jail.

The judge asked Thorson if he could explain why she shouldn't give him the longer sentence.

'More than most defendants I have seen, (Thorson) got really scared really fast,' said Mike Regan, senior deputy district attorney. 'He tried to tell the judge what he had done was not with malice, and he really cared for the girl. He told the judge he knew he was wrong, but made a mistake, and asked the judge to please understand. He came across as relatively remorseful.'

The Sandy police investigation proved at one time during the relationship Thorson invited the girl to his home and his bedroom.

The two, who believed they had formed a romantic relationship leading to marriage, had been meeting in their cars in parking lots around Sandy. That's when other inappropriate, intimate and sexual activities took place, Regan said.

After a couple of weeks, the girl's parents became suspicious, Regan said, because they thought she was seen too often with this man, and the girl had been speaking of him in ways that were too intimate.

Late one night in February, the girl's mother went to the high school, where her daughter had gone to allegedly pick up homework.

That's when she discovered her daughter's car and Thorson's car in the parking lot, with Thorson's windows totally fogged. Her mother ordered the girl to go home, and she reported the encounter to Sandy police.

Contacted by Sandy Police Detective Jason Bickle, Thorson immediately confessed to the accusations.

He reportedly told police he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he couldn't help himself.

In court Thursday, Thorson apologized to the victim's family members who were present for the sentencing and to the victim, who was not there.

'Basically he said he was sorry,' Regan said, 'and he knew what he had done was wrong and wished it hadn't happened. He also said he meant no ill will to anyone.'

Even though Regan said the conviction is not a major sex crime, Thorson said he expects its effects to be devastating.

'This is a misdemeanor,' said Regan, 'but it carries with it all of the same conditions as any sex crime. This can never be taken off his record, and he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. However, after 10 years a defendant can petition the court for relief from the registration.'

Speaking for the young man in court, Thorson's attorney, William Dials of Gresham, said Thorson's future was ruined. Thorson's plans were to become a teacher or coach at a high school or college.

The attorney asked Steele, when Thorson is released from custody in February 2011, if his probation could be transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he believes he can begin a career as an arena football player for the Utah Blaze.

At the end of Thursday's proceedings in Steele's court, while his mother watched, Thorson left the courtroom handcuffed as a sheriff's deputy took him to the Clackamas County Jail.

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