Former Badger High School student gets probation in sex photo case
ELKHORN—Some people shook their heads when Tias Larson tearfully turned to the crowd that packed into his sentencing hearing Friday and said he felt like he failed them.
Before announcing his sentence, Walworth County Judge Phil Koss addressed those people.
“He might not be a failure, but he did fail you,” Koss said. “He failed his mom and dad. He failed his friends. He failed (the victim). He failed.”
Koss sentenced Larson, now 18, of Genoa City to two years of probation for his role in having sex with two fellow Badger High School students when they were all 16 and sending a cellphone photo of the act to someone.
Koss imposed and stayed a nine-month jail sentence, pending any probation violations.
When Koss asked Larson if he wanted to speak, Larson stood and apologized to the victim and her family, who attended the hearing.
“My actions that night were unacceptable, and I'm truly sorry,” he said.
On July 7, Larson pleaded guilty to reduced charges: misdemeanors sexual intercourse with a child who was at least 16 years old but not 18, exposing a child to harmful material and exposing genitals.
A fourth count of party to sexual exploitation of a child by filming, the felony charge Larson originally faced, was dismissed but read into the record.
The case was originally in juvenile court. Last fall, it was waived into adult court, which is open to the public.
The case stems from a Feb. 19, 2016, incident when a 16-year-old girl invited Blake L. Dodd, now 17, of Lake Geneva to her house to watch a movie. She told police Dodd brought Larson, who was not invited, according to the criminal complaint.
Dodd and Larson had sex with the girl, who told police it was not consensual, according to the complaint. No sexual assault charges are filed against Larson or Dodd.
Larson's lawyer, Jenelle Glasbrenner, argued the sex was consensual and that if the victim did not want Larson there, she should not have let him into her house.
Larson sent the cellphone photo of the incident to at least one person. Police obtained a photo that shows Larson and Dodd both facing the camera and high-fiving while the girl, who appears to be naked, is between the two boys.
Dodd still faces a charge of party to sexual exploitation of a child by filming. He is scheduled for a September jury trial with a final pretrial hearing at 10 a.m. Sept. 12.
Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson said the victim did not know a photo was taken until people started asking her about it at school. She eventually transferred schools, Johnson said.
“People drove past her family's business and yelled things,” Johnson said. “She has been and continues to feel humiliated, dejected and powerless. She didn't want any of this to happen.”
Johnson also read from a statement submitted to the court by a family member of the victim.
“I feel there is no amount of punishment harsh enough to replace the amount of life taken away,” Johnson read. “All I can hope for is some kind of closure, some kind of retribution, so she can see that the world is capable of being a fair place.”
The sentence Johnson asked for is the sentence Koss gave.
Glasbrenner had asked for a monetary fine, arguing Larson has a spotless history beyond this incident. She said Larson is involved in many activities and is an Eagle Scout.
Johnson asked for Larson to register as a sex offender, but Koss declined to require that. Koss said Larson is not at the same risk to re-offend as other sex criminals he has seen in his time as judge and district attorney.
A doctor who reviewed Larson's case said the problems came down to “immature” decision-making, Glasbrenner said.
Koss said he hopes the young people involved are able to learn from their mistakes and move on with their lives—which for some, includes starting college.
Larson leaves for college next week.