GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Edward Joseph Peterson, 61-years-old, of the Lac Du Flambeau Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin, received a seven-year sentence in federal prison for child sexual abuse on June 29th, 2015.
A grand jury charged Peterson with seven counts of abusive sexual contact with four different children under 12 years old from 2009 to 2011. Peterson pled guilty to one count, and the judge ordered him to pay $100,000 in restitution to the victims for counseling.
In 2009, two young girls in the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians reported that Peterson touched them on their breasts and buttocks while they were visiting his house on tribal land in Emmet County, near Petoskey. In 2011, two more girls reported that Peterson touched their genitals and buttocks, also on tribal land. A fifth girl later reported that Peterson also sexually abused her. In 2012, the FBI interviewed Peterson about the allegations, which he denied. Following the interview, while the investigation continued, Peterson sexually abused another young girl in Wisconsin. As a result, Peterson pled guilty in Wisconsin state court in 2014 to First Degree Child Sexual Assault and is currently serving a four-year sentence. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell ordered the federal sentence to be served consecutively to the state sentence, totaling a combined sentence of 11 years. Peterson will be subject to a 10-year period of federal supervised release after prison and will be required to register as a sex offender.
At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Bell read aloud from a number of statements written by the victims and their parents. All the statements discussed both an intense sense of betrayal and anger, as well as the need for ongoing counseling on the girls’ road towards recovery. In delivering the sentence, Judge Bell stated that Peterson has “no respect for the law, or even for people.” He noted the importance of protecting the public from Peterson, especially given that Peterson abused yet another child after being notified by the FBI of the investigation into child sexual abuse in Michigan.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles stated, “I applaud the children in this case for having the bravery to report what happened to them rather than suffering in silence. The fact that all the children described the same type of abuse over time shows a disturbing pattern of pedophilia and conveys the danger that Peterson presents to communities everywhere.”
“The defendant in this case sexually abused a number of children, displaying an utter disregard for human decency and the law,” stated Paul M. Abbate, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “Those same children demonstrated remarkable courage, bravely reporting the crimes in the face of their abuser and helping to bring an end to the perpetrator’s abusive actions. The FBI and its tribal law enforcement partners continue working to protect our communities and combat sexual predators who commit such depraved criminal acts.”
Leaders from the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians, where the offenses took place, attended the sentencing. The tribe’s Chairperson and the Chief of Police stated, “Fortunately, we do not have a large number of criminal cases arising from our tribe, but when a crime like this occurs, we are glad to see tribal and federal law enforcement working together for justice and are committed to providing whatever services the victims might need as they heal.”
The federal investigation was conducted by the FBI in collaboration with tribal law enforcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeff J. Davis and Tessa K. Hessmiller prosecuted the case.
This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office; county prosecutor’s offices; and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.