A former high school tutor who received a 100-year sentence after being found guilty of sexually abusing a student will be resentenced after an appeals court decided the original sentencing involved “obvious error.”
Claude Edward Fowlkes III received the 100-year sentence in part because of a previous offense, according to the Wednesday ruling by the Alaska Court of Appeals.
The court held that “conduct for which the defendant is being separately punished” cannot be used as an aggravating factor. The sentencing must be redone.
“It was obvious error for the sentencing judge to rely on Fowlkes’s separate conviction" to increase the sentence in the latest case, the ruling states.
Fowlkes is serving a 35-year prison sentence in connection with a different case in which a boy told authorities that Fowlkes offered to pay him $100 to help him move from his apartment and then forced him to have sex in one of the bedrooms. A jury convicted Fowlkes of three counts of sexual abuse of a minor in 2015.
In 2017, Fowlkes was convicted of seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor in the second case. It involved a student at Hutchison High School who accused him of luring him into a school bathroom for sex five times and rewarding him with Amazon gift cards. Fowlkes was employed at the school as a teen parenting correspondence instructor and tutor at the time.
Superior Court Judge Michael MacDonald handed down the 100-year sentence. Fowlkes faced a minimum prison sentence of at least 57.5 years, according to the appeals court ruling.
MacDonald based the higher sentence on two aggravating factors as determined by the jury — that the offenses happened on school grounds and that Fowlkes was at least 10 years older than the victim.
The judge added a third aggravating factor — that Fowlkes had also engaged in sexual offenses involving another victim. In sentencing remarks, the judge stated that the previous offense played an “important” and “significant” part in his sentencing decision.
But the appeals court determined MacDonald erred because the aggravator involved behavior for which a separate punishment was in place.
Fowlkes had also appealed his convictions, and the appeals court affirmed them.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.