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North Idaho sex offender awaits sentencing

by KEITH KINNAIRD
Hagadone News Network | November 27, 2010 8:00 PM

SANDPOINT - A North Idaho man who failed to comply with his presentence obligations in a Bonner County sex abuse case surfaced in Benewah County earlier this month.

A bench warrant was issued last year for Austin Byron Courser after he failed to show for a presentence interview, a background investigation judges use to tailor a sentence to a particular defendant.

Courser's sentencing is now set for Feb. 22 in 1st District Court. He entered an Alford plea to an amended charge of sexual abuse of a minor.

Under such a plea, Courser admits no wrongdoing but concedes he could be convicted if the matter went to trial. Alford pleas enable a defendant to gain the benefit of a plea agreement, although the plea is treated no differently than a standard plea of guilt at sentencing.

Courser, 35, was originally charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor for fondling a 15-year-old girl's genitalia at a graduation party in Bonner County in 2009.

Courser faces up to 25 years in prison, although the state had earlier agreed to recommend a five- to 10-year term with retained jurisdiction. When the court retains jurisdiction, a defendant can become eligible for release after serving six months in prison. Courser would have to register as a sex offender.

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