Friday, Aug. 19, 2005 | 10:55 a.m.
Prosecutors have agreed to a plea bargain that will allow a 21-year-old former Mormon missionary charged with molesting an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old girl at a Mormon chapel to avoid prison and avoid having to register as a sex offender.
The deal given to John Misseldine allows for probation instead of a potential sentence of 20 years to life in prison.
To get the deal, Misseldine on Thursday entered an Alford plea to one count each of attempted lewdness with a child under the age of 14 and coercion. Under an Alford plea a defendant technically does not admit guilt but agrees that prosecutors could prove their case at trial.
As part of the complex plea bargain, however, District Judge Donald Mosley found Misseldine guilty only of the coercion charge on Thursday and placed a stay on a ruling of the more serious charge of attempted lewdness charge.
On Oct. 10, Mosley is expected to issue a suspended sentence of two to five years in prison and place Misseldine on probation for five years. If Misseldine successfully completes probation, the coercion and attempted lewdness charges would be dismissed.
If Misseldine fails to complete probation he would not only serve the two- to five-year prison term for the coercion charge, but also two to 20 years for the attempted lewdness charge. It would be up to Mosley to decide whether those sentences would run consecutively or concurrently.
If he does not comply with the terms of his probation, Misseldine would then be required to register as a sex offender and be under lifetime supervision.
Misseldine was scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 22 on two counts of lewdness with a child under the age of 14. If convicted he would have faced a sentence of 10 years to life in prison on each count.
Misseldine's attorney, Robert Draskovich, said the plea bargain was the result of "ongoing discussions over the past six months" with the district attorney's office. Draskovich said he "believed this young man was innocent" and was happy the district attorney's office "acknowledged there were questions as to his guilt."
The defense attorney said Misseldine, who has no previous criminal history, took and passed two polygraphs, which even though they are inadmissible in court bolstered Misseldine's claim of innocence.
Draskovich also said one of the victims in the case had a "history of making false allegations and the other victim is a close family member" of the other victim who may have been swayed to accuse Misseldine.
When asked if he was confident that Misseldine could stay trouble free for the next five years, Draskovich responded saying "he's lived under the stigma of these allegations for two years and he's willing to continue for another five."
The defense attorney said rumors that Misseldine had faced legal problems due to alleged involvement with young girls in Virginia were completely false. He said Misseldine was never arrested or charged with any crimes in his life.
Draskovich said the allegation came from a Clark County Detention Center corrections officer, were investigated by the district attorney's office and were found to be untrue.
Misseldine of Little Rock, Ark., is free on $35,000 bail and is currently attending college in northern Utah.
When Mosley asked Misseldine if he understood the complexities of the plea bargain, Misseldine responded "Yes sir."
Prosecutor Stacy Collins would not elaborate as to why Misseldine was offered the deal other than to say it "strikes a balance between justice and community protection."
Collins told Mosley that if the case had gone to trial the evidence would have shown that on May 4, 2003, Misseldine touched the girls in a Bible study room while the girls' aunt was attending an adult education class at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel at 1775 N. Christy Lane in Las Vegas.
Misseldine was originally charged with one count of sexual assault and two counts of lewdness, but the sexual assault charge was dropped after Draskovich successfully argued that the charge wrongly stemmed from testimony given by the victim's aunt. Mosley dismissed the sexual assualt charge.
The law allows statements made by a child under the age of 10 describing sexual molestation to be used in court if certain conditions are met.