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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Niagara Church Associate Pastor Gets 20-Year Prison Sentence

Issue Date: September 2, 2020

At the conclusion of an hour-long sentencing hearing on Monday, Aug. 31, sex offender David Lee Lyman, 56, of Niagara was placed in shackles and led away to begin a 20-year sentence as an inmate of the Wisconsin State Prison system.

In accord with the sentence imposed by Judge James A. Morrison in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch II, that term will be followed by 20 years of extended supervision and lifetime compliance with the Wisconsin Sex offender registry requirements.

In a plea bargain agreement reached to prevent the young victim, a grandson, from having to testify and go through cross examination, on June 11 Lyman had pled no contest to a sole charge - a Felony B offense of repeated First Degree Sexual Assault (three or more times) of the same child. The offense date is listed on court documents as Jan. 1, 2017.

In accord with the no contest plea, Judge Morrison had found Lyman guilty on that single count, which was just one of the many charges Lyman Lyman was facing. When it came time for sentencing, Judge Morrison expressed regret that he was left with only the one charge for which to impose punishment. His sentence was significantly less than the possible 60-year maximum, but double the 10 years in prison that had been recommended in the plea bargain agreement.

Charges dismissed in accord with the plea bargain but read into the record for sentencing purposes included two additional counts of repeated First Degree Sexual Assault of the same child, six counts of incest with a child, and five counts of possession of child pornography. The child pornography charges were filed on Jan. 31, 2020. Court documents list the Sexual Assault of a Child offenses as occurring on Jan. 1, 2017.

In his comments during sentencing Judge Morrison graphically described the child pornography images from the internet saved on David Lyman's computer as photos of pre-pubescent teenage girls, nude or nearly nude, in various sexual acts or positions with adult males.

In pronouncing sentence, Judge Morrison cited powerful evidence of Lyman's guilt of all the original charges and strongly urged church leaders and family members to support the young victim in this case, rather than the offender.

Officials in court for the Aug. 31 sentencing included Defense Attorney Michael Perry, Marinette County District Attorney DeShea Morrow for the prosecution, and a Marinette County Victim Witness coordinator. With the victim's mother, Crystal Lyman, were her boyfriend Brad, who in a conversation outside the courtroom described himself as a father figure for the young victim, two City of Niagara police officers, and two others.

On the other side of the aisle were David Lyman's mother, his wife Joanne, and three members of the clergy, one of them from Niagara. Everyone was masked in accord with Supreme Court COVID-19 orders.

Lyman appeared in court neatly groomed - clean shaven and short-haired, dressed in a black vest and dark blue dress shirt. Lyman is retired from a long military career, is reportedly being treated for PTSD, and has also reportedly continued to serve in the unofficial role of associate pastor at Riverside United Methodist Church in Niagara. On his Facebook page Lyman identifies himself as either current or former pastor at Hickory Corners United Methodist Church in Suring and Tabor United Methodist Church in Gillett.

Cash bail for Lyman was originally set at $50,000, but in court proceedings on July 22, 2019, that was reduced to a total $10,000 signature bond and he was released on bail. Terms included that Lyman follow the usual conditions plus have no contact with the victim or anyone under age 18, have no internet access for any illicit purpose, attend all appointments, follow all prescriptions, follow all medical advice of psychologists and attend all PTSD programs.

At the start of the Aug. 31 sentencing proceedings, Judge Morrison referred to numerous letters he had received in regard to the case, including ones from Rev. Warner Weddel of Sheboygan and other ministers.

Lyman's oldest son had provided the court with a statement that he himself had been sexually abused by his father when he was a child and had cut off contact with his family when his first son was born to prevent the boy from being exposed to his grandfather.

Morrison said he had read all of the letters and placed them on file, as well as the victim impact statement and findings in the pre-sentence investigation. He verified that Morrow, Perry and Lyman had also viewed the letters and related information.

In addition to the defendant, the only person to address the court prior to the sentencing was a tearful Crystal Lyman, who described the impact on herself and her son. Her mother and father had regularly babysat for the boy before she learned what had been going on. Comments by Judge Morrison indicated the boy had been abused by his grandfather both orally and anally.

She said her father was born and raised in Niagara so everyone knows them, and the entire community has been torn apart. She said her son's teachers and counselors and Niagara police have been great. She has been receiving counseling once a week, "...and my son is just starting to open up."

"The little boy I used to know is so scared," she said, adding that he is hurt and confused. "My son is really struggling...He wants to play with his cousins, and they were all invited to his birthday party...but they didn't show...They've completely shunned us...We haven't had any support from anyone except for Brad's side of the family....My parents, my aunts and uncles have all abandoned us....The idea that I couldn't trust my own father with my son made me feel that I've failed my son!"

Before pronouncing sentence Judge Morrison reviewed the penalties suggested in the plea bargain agreement worked out between Morrow and Perry, which had been for 10 years initial imprisonment plus 15 years of extended supervision, no contact with the victim, sex offender registry, no contact with minors and other conditions.

He then noted he is not bound by the agreement, and added, "I don't think I have to comment on the seriousness of these charges!" He said Lyman had repeatedly abused a little boy, his grandson who was seven or eight years old, and was someone who trusted him. "He repeatedly abused that trust!"

He said language specialists have reviewed the boy's comments, and have determined that what he says, he says very plainly. "This is a child that doesn't have an evil intent," Judge Morrison declared, adding that the boy wouldn't know how to make those things up. Morrison sadly noted the boy even said he misses his "Papa," (his name for Lyman), but when he had to talk about what Papa had him do, he knew it was wrong.

The defendant was weeping part of the time during the remarks.

"The effects will be felt for a long, long time," Judge Morrison declared. He said the boy has been regressing, it is hard for the child to understand why their relationship has been cut off, and added he was shocked when he read letters from ministers who were defending Lyman with no information whatever except what David Lyman had given them.

"Who was worried about the victim in all this?" Morrison demanded, and added, "As a society, we have a responsibility to protect the young and the vulnerable."

He spoke of sentencing as a deterrent, but wondered if there were such a thing as a deterrent for this type of offense.

He agreed David Lyman has been a war hero, appears to be a religious family man, and has very nearly a clean record, with his only prior a 1984 conviction for a misdemeanor criminal trespass.

However, he added, "Humans are very complicated...We are capable of very good things and very bad things...The good things do not forecast the bad things."

Morrison referred to the letter from Lyman's son who said he also was sexually assaulted by his father, both orally and anally.

He said records from David Lyman's seized computer showed since July 25 of 2019 he had searched sites on pre-teen sex, family sex, how DNA can be entered and used as evidence, and also penalties for homicide and reckless homicide, along with other questionable subjects.

Morrison said David Lyman had lied when he testified to him, in court, that he had moved back to Niagara to help his mother, and neglected to say he left his prior job because he was under discipline by the nursing board.

He agreed that by entering the no contest plea David Lyman had saved the child from having to testify, but felt he had not done it because he was a good guy but because of the penalties he would otherwise face if convicted. "This is a very serious offense and it deserves a very serious sentence!" Morrison concluded, before opening for comments from the defense.

"There's no question this situation has caused a lot of issues for not only (the child) but also for Mr. Lyman himself," Perry said."The family will never go back to what it was. He said David Lyman's searches for information on penalties for reckless homicide and other issues had nothing whatever to do with this case. He declared David Lyman has a strong moral character, "...and is already living in a hell of itself with a PTSD disorder." He added that during his time in prison Lyman will face significant difficulties with PTSD because treatment in the state prison system is very insufficient.

He said the proposed sentence of 10 years of incarceration and then 15 years of extended supervision is significant, and added that even the psychologist said seven or eight years in prison with three or four years of supervision would be enough.

The defendant then read a prepared statement after apologizing that his PTSD makes it difficult for him to explain or express his feelings. "To my family, I express my extreme sorrow and regret...there is no aspect from which our family has not been affected," he said. He had been a registered nurse, but that is gone. He and Joanne raised three successful children, two sons with military careers and daughter (Crystal) as a working single mom, he said, and then added: "somehow, somewhere along the line, I failed them as a father."

He said their family relationships have been damaged beyond repair. In time there might be forgiveness, "but there will always be pain and scars."

For the boy, Lyman asked, "Please be kind to him and nurture him and help him understand what has happened...but most of all, assure him there is a home for him after life here is done."

He ended his statements with a prayer that ended, "...and grant us peace."

Morrison then observed that at the plea hearing he had asked if the facts that were alleged were true, and if he could use them to accept the no contest plea, "and the defendant said yes."

He said the five child porn charges were dismissed but read into the record and could be considered for sentencing. He described each of the graphic porn images that Lyman had searched for and saved on his computer.

"I have just heard a wonderful statement from the defendant...but not one word about the horrendous harm he did" to the boy, Morrison observed.

"I have received letters from good citizens," Morrison said, but told those in the courtroom and those who had written the letters, "You have been deceived by this man!" He said David Lyman had told them he was falsely accused, but had told the court at the plea hearing that the facts were true. "Was he lying to me or was he lying to you?" Morrison asked. He then asked them to think about why the defendant's son had come forward with allegations about being similarly abused as a child.

Morrison said perpetrators in these types of abuse cases are usually people who have been perceived to be good people, and who have been trusted, "Otherwise they could not have done what they did." Some of those perceived to be good people have totally ruined entire lives by their behavior.

Morrison scolded family members and church leaders who believed David Lyman rather than the mother of the boy who was abused. He asked if someone who kept images like those on David Lyman's computer "...is someone who should lead your congregation in prayer?"

He said David Lyman had told him, in court, that he could believe the physical evidence, but then had gone around town saying otherwise. It appeared David Lyman had accused the boy of lying, and Morrison asked what kind of message that sent to the community.

"How could a kid that age even know what to make up?" Morrison asked, and repeated that in court, David Lyman had told him the facts were true.

"Multiple times, in unspeakable ways," the defendant perpetrated crimes on his grandson, Morrison declared. He added, "... the Lord has forgiveness, but that is not the responsibility of this court...There is no punishment on earth to make up for what has been done to this boy!"

Morrison asked Crystal Lyman, to tell her son, when he is old enough: "That as a judge, I believe (him) without a doubt!" He added that those who interact with the boy also need to tell him that.

Morrison said he has studied these types of sex abuse cases, "and unfortunately they are disgustingly common." Rehabilitation? Deterrence? He doubted these would work, and added, "...only maybe, when these things arise, instead of running to his assistance, think about looking at the facts!"

Morrison said as to restitution, there is nothing that can make it up to the boy, except to convince him, "he was believed and he was not responsible."

He again noted David Lyman has an exemplary record, had served his country well, and is probably a hero, and started in a good profession when he got out. He agreed in the fighting he had gone through in his military career, David Lyman had probably "suffered in ways we cannot imagine," but then added it was "fraud..that the guy who stood up in the sanctuary in church is the guy who was taking advantage of a little boy!"

He said that was a violation of trust of the worst kin, "The trust a little boy has in his grandpa!"

He likened this crime to murder, "...the death of a little boy's soul," but then added, "hopefully, that can be resurrected."

Morrison said he had hoped that David Lyman would show some shame, some remorse, but there was none. He said attorneys for both sides had worked out the plea bargain and he had accepted it to keep the boy from having to give even more painful testimony, but accepting the plea had left him with just the one charge for which to impose sentence.

"He did not do this to be a nice guy," Morrison said of David Lyman's "no contest" plea. As a result of accepting that plea, "The maximum time I have available to me is 60 years," Morrison said, explaining he could impose 40 years in prison followed by 20 years of extended supervision.

"I think this case richly deserves the 60 years," Morrison declared, but in the interest of future plea negotiations, he would instead make the sentence for 20 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision. The defendant will be 76 years old when his prison term ends.

He added that sentence should send a strong message: "When you mess with kids, you're messing with big trouble....and this is one of the worst possible cases!"

He said the boy will be 27 or 28 years old when his grandfather gets out of prison, and even then David Lyman is to have no contact with him unless the young man wants it, his counselor recommends it, and there is no contact without permission of the court.

While in prison or on extended supervision afterward, David Lyman is to have no contact with the boy or any member of his family, is to observe sex offender registry rules for life, have no contact with minors, complete assessments and follow through treatment as recommended by agent, follow any other conditions recommended by the agent, and have no use of the Internet or possession of electronic devices with Internet access without prior agent approval.


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