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Published November 25, 2013, 08:05 PM

Former Duluth youth coach sentenced for sex assault

A former Little League baseball and Salvation Army youth basketball coach was sentenced Monday to serve nearly 13 years in prison after he admitted last month to sexually assaulting two preteen boys.

DULUTH -- A former Little League baseball and Salvation Army youth basketball coach was sentenced Monday to serve nearly 13 years in prison after he admitted last month to sexually assaulting two preteen boys.

Peter Jay Olson, 48, of Duluth, pleaded guilty to two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct on Oct. 3 as part of a plea deal in which several other less-serious charges were dropped.

Judge Heather Sweetland sentenced Olson to 153 months in prison, a minimum guideline sentence. Olson will also be on supervised release for the rest of his life, and must register as a predatory offender.

Prosecutors had argued for a longer sentence of about 18 years, while Olson’s attorney, Daniel Lew, sought a below-guideline term.

“I’m appreciative of the fact that there was no trial in this matter and that the children didn’t have to testify, but the facts are such that I cannot possibly grant a downward departure in this matter,” Sweetland said in issuing the sentence.

Before sentencing, Olson delivered a lengthy apology to the boys, their families, Lake Park Little League and the Salvation Army. He said he’d like to get into treatment and become a contributing member of society again.

“I do feel so bad for what I’ve done,” Olson said, tearing up. “I’ll never be able to undo what I’ve done, but I’ll work so hard to make sure that it never happens again.”

Lew asked for leniency in sentencing, saying that it would be impossible for Olson to get the treatment he is seeking while serving a lengthy term. He also pointed to several friends and family members of Olson who wrote to the judge and attended the hearing to offer their support.

“Peter Olson is a good man,” Lew said.

“He has shown remorse. He has accepted responsibility,” Lew said. “He has an incredible network of friends and family members who are ready to help him repair the harm he has caused.”

Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Rebekka Stumme, however, questioned whether Olson had been forthright with investigators, saying he has a “clear pattern of lying and misleading.” She pointed out that one of the two victims came forward after Olson was first charged, and said there could be more victims that aren’t yet known.

“The defendant is suffering from a severe misunderstanding of how serious these crimes are,” Stumme said. “He was placed in a level of trust and he violated that trust when he sexually assaulted those two young boys.”

In issuing her sentencing, Sweetland noted the defense request for leniency, but said the victims also needed to heal.

“You mentioned that you’ll be going through a lifelong process of healing,” Sweetland said to Olson. “The young men have to heal as well, and they’ll go through it in their own ways.”

Olson was a longtime coach with the Lake Park Little League, resigning in June. According to the Salvation Army, Olson started coaching in the Rookie Basketball program in 1988 and was terminated from the position in November 2012.

Olson met both victims through coaching, according to court documents.

At last month’s plea hearing, Olson admitted to performing sexual acts on one victim and of taking pictures of the victim and himself in a sexually compromising position. Olson also admitted to taking naked photos of himself and the other victim, and of having had sexual contact with him.

This case was one of several recent criminal proceedings that involved former Salvation Army youth basketball coaches. Wendell Anthony Greene was sentenced earlier this month to 12 years after being found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting two preteen girls. Greene is set to stand trial again in April on charges that he also abused a third preteen girl.

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