An Idaho Falls man who raped a developmentally disabled teenager was sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Michael Albert Carter, 30, will spend at least the next five years in prison, with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years for sexual battery of a child 16 to 17 years of age. A concurrent sentence was handed down for five to 10 years in prison for possession of sexually exploitative material.
A second case against Carter for sexual abuse of another teenage girl was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Carter was arrested in September 2018 after the incident was reported and police discovered nude photos of both victims on his phone.
Carter was a driver for En Route Transportation, an Idaho Falls company that transports patients to nonemergency medical appointments. He was supposed to transport the victim to her physical therapy. According to the victim, however, Carter had sex with her in the van provided by the company four times in August 2018.
En Route Transportation fired Carter upon learning of the abuse. The company declined to comment on Carter’s case Wednesday.
The victim called Carter a predator in her victim impact statement, saying the sexual abuse had haunted her.
“I can never forget what Mr. Carter did,” she said. “I feel like half of my life was taken away.”
Defense Attorney James Pendlebury emphasized Carter’s lack of a criminal history while arguing for his client to be sentenced to retained jurisdiction. He said Carter had served in the military. He cited a psychosexual evaluation that found Carter was amenable to treatment.
Pendlebury also repeated his client’s claim that he did not know the victim’s age when they had intercourse. Carter had said the sex was not forced with either victim. Under Idaho law, sex between an adult and minor is rape if the adult is more than three years older than the victim, even if they are unaware of the victim’s age.
Teresa Browning, owner of En Route Transportation, told the Post Register after Carter’s arrest that he would have known the victim’s age.
Bonneville County Chief Deputy Prosecutor John Dewey pointed out Carter had failed a polygraph question that asked if he knew the victim’s age. According to Dewey, Carter also failed the polygraph when asked if there were other victims he had inappropriate relations with.
Dewey agreed that Carter’s history showed him to be a low risk to reoffend but also said the seriousness of the offense warranted a prison sentence.
“We had somebody in a position of trust who took this juvenile out of the way and had sexual contact with her,” Dewey said.
Though the second case was dismissed, Dewey said it showed Carter’s acts were not a one-time misunderstanding.
Carter gave a brief statement apologizing for his actions.
“I know that there’s nothing I can do to take back what I’ve done,” Carter said.
District Judge Bruce Pickett said he was concerned by Carter’s dishonesty. Aside from his failure of the polygraph, Carter was confronted by the victim’s sister when she learned of the abuse. When she asked Carter’s age, he lied and said he was 22.
“There is no part of your job description that entails what happened, whether she was a minor or not,” Pickett said.
In addition to prison time, Carter will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.