The ex-Phillipsburg police officer found guilty of raping and kidnapping four women while in uniform and on the job is scheduled to be sentenced today.
Justin Sanderson, 33, will be sentenced by Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof, who found the defendant guilty of 19 counts during a bench trial last month.
A sentencing table including in a prosecutors’ memo estimated Sanderson’s possible punishment from 23 to 89 years in prison plus up to two years in local jail. Prosecutors are asking for an 89-year prison sentence.
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“Defendant’s reprehensible conduct in this case warrant imposition of maximum, consecutive sentences,” Montgomery County assistant prosecutors Kelly Madzey and Dylan Smearcheck wrote. Sanderson “is a predator who abused his authority and targeted women he perceived to be vulnerable. He hunted for women, and he victimized them in the most appalling ways.”
Sanderson did not testify in his own defense, but his attorneys’ sentencing memo provides some mitigating factors including claims that Sanderson was a sexual assault victim.
Defense attorneys Anthony VanNoy and Kimberly Melchor wrote that Sanderson was in foster care, put up for adoption at a young age, separated from his brother and adopted by a single mother.
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“Perhaps this is why family has taken on such significance for him,” defense attorneys wrote, noting that Sanderson is an involved father of two boys who also has support from his wife.
“Innocent parties are likely to suffer greatly if Justin is sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment,” the memo said. “There has been such extensive media attention that the family left town for a few weeks to get away from the madness.”
VanNoy and Melchor wrote that Sanderson has been a community volunteer and served in homeless shelters and a prison ministry.
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“He has been an awesome father who is loved by his family and has his family’s support to help him transition back into the community as a productive, crime-free citizen,” Sanderson’s attorneys wrote. “He is further humbly and respectfully asking the Court for leniency in sentencing.”
Prosecutors wrote that Sanderson’s actions damage all police officers.
“His actions tarnished not only his own personal reputation, but because he committed these crimes in uniform under the guise of police authority, he has disparaged the entire law enforcement community,” the memo said. “The damage caused by him is immeasurable, and extends far beyond the four women identified as victims in this case. In a culture with growing distrust of police, (Sanderson) fueled the fire.”
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