A district court judge did not have the authority to add to a Bismarck man’s prison time after it was learned the man forged three letters of support before being sentenced for raping an infant, his attorney argued before the North Dakota Supreme Court on Monday.
Andrew Glasser, 35, was sentenced in February to four years in prison after entering an Alford plea to a charge of sexual assault. With an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges there's enough evidence for a conviction. The court treats it like a guilty plea.
Glasser pleaded guilty in July 2019 in a related case to abusing a child, tampering with evidence and 10 counts of possessing child pornography.
The cases were reopened and three misdemeanor forgery charges filed when it came to light that Glasser signed the name of a former college acquaintance to a letter and submitted it to the court prior to his sentencing. Glasser pleaded guilty to the forgeries, and South Central District Judge David Reich sentenced him to 20 years with all but 10 suspended on the sexual assault charge. Glasser in total was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Glasser appealed the resentencing, saying the district court loses jurisdiction over such a matter once a sentence has been imposed, defense attorney Benjamin Pulkrabek told the Supreme Court. Glasser had 23 legitimate letters of support and the three forged letters had little effect, the attorney said.
“Although I don’t condone someone misleading the court by forged letters, it wasn’t that serious a thing, and I don’t think even if the court did have jurisdiction they should have done anything,” Pulkrabek said.
The state also missed the 120-day deadline for any resentencing, Pulkrabek said, adding that his client did not waive the time limit.
Glasser’s actions were criminal and far more than little white lies meant to show him in a better light, Burleigh County State’s Attorney Julie Lawyer told the justices.
“This was an intentional act by the defendant on three separate occasions to lie to the court,” Lawyer said.
When false information is considered in sentencing, the court shouldn’t be stopped from coming back to reconsider the sentence, she said.
The matter would have been taken care of sooner if not for delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawyer said. The matter of jurisdiction was addressed in the motion filed by the state and the defendant did not object at that time, she said.
Pulkrabek asked the judges to send the case back to the district court with instructions to cancel the new sentence and reinstate the original. The court will rule later.
Reich’s initial sentence prompted letters and emails to the judge and drew him harsh criticism on social media. At Glasser's resentencing, Reich said he appreciated that people followed the case but said none of them was at the crime scene or the sentencing, and likely none of them read the transcript of the hearing.
“This isn’t like ancient Rome where we go out in the coliseum and we ask the people for a thumbs up or a thumbs down for a sentence,” Reich said.
Letters of support from family members are expected to be positive, but letters from a third person or a stranger carry considerable weight, the judge said at the resentencing hearing. The forged letters forced him “to look at everything that was submitted on behalf of Mr. Glasser differently,” Reich said.
Glasser was originally charged in October 2017. Authorities allege the baby had an injury evident of sexual abuse, rib fractures caused by squeezing, and leg injuries that were in different stages of healing. Glasser’s cellphone had been purposely reset to hide evidence, and a forensic search of his computers showed the intentional downloading of child pornography images, according to Lawyer.
The child suffered a “significant injury,” and three doctors said it was a “penetrating wound,” Lawyer said during previous court proceedings.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com