A 34-year-old Craig man received a five-year prison sentence, followed by 15 years of sex-offender supervised probation, after being convicted of attempting to commit sexual assault on a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Benjamin Tolle pleaded guilty to the felony charges in Moffat County Court after reaching a plea agreement with the Routt County District Attorney’s office.
In passing down his sentence Nov. 6, Moffat County Judge Sandra Gardner referenced Tolle’s plea agreement, saying that if he had been convicted on the charges that led to his arrest, “he would have been facing a very lengthy prison sentence.”
“Mr. Tolle is going to have to register as a sex offender,” Judge Gardner said. “The court is finding that he is not a sexually violent predator. Contact with minor children … will be at the direction of the community supervision team.”
Court documents show Craig police issued a warrant for Tolle’s arrest in November 2022 after the victim reported to a teacher that Tolle had inappropriately touched the victim repeatedly while the victim was under his care. A later forensic interview found the pattern of behavior had occurred on a daily basis for at least 1.5 to 2 years, according to an arrest affidavit.
Without going into too many details, Judge Gardner qualified Tolle’s actions as “grooming behavior” and added, “the need to punish this type of behavior is very strong and that is one of many issues every judge must consider.”
Tolle, a military veteran who served as a medic in Afghanistan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss and damage to portions of his body and holds no prior criminal record.
Judge Gardner said she considered those factors in issuing his sentence and recognized professional evaluations of Tolle, which found that he “is an individual who is in need of treatment and not just sex-offender specific treatment, but treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.”
“The court acknowledges that you are a young man. I have given great consideration to the fact that you had absolutely no criminal record before coming before this court,” Judge Gardner said. “This sentence that I have handed down today is both punitive but also rehabilitative. And I ask that you take advantage to the community and begin your rehabilitation in earnest.”
Reading a letter addressed to the victim prior to his sentencing, Tolle expressed regret over his actions.
“I put you in a position where you had to hide things and felt terrible about what I was doing and now I see why you acted the way you did,” said Tolle during the sentencing hearing.
“Words cannot express how much I hate myself for what I have done to you,” he added.
Judge Gardner noted that when Tolle was evaluated under the state’s guidelines for the assessment, evaluation, treatment and behavioral monitoring of adult sex offenders, he entered into a plea agreement and cast blame on the victim; a juxtaposition to a piece of Tolle’s letter asserting that the victim had, “never done anything wrong that could have ever caused this.”
“(The victim) is not to blame. Nor will (the victim) ever be to blame for what Mr. Tolle did,” Judge Gardner said, adding that the victim “is going to be a survivor … as (they) grow into an adult. May (they) find the capacity to forgive.”
Tolle’s attorney, Randall Salky, and Routt County Assistant Deputy Attorney Matt Tjosvold, who prosecuted the case, did not return requests for comment.
Trevor Ballantyne is the city government and housing reporter. To reach him, call 970-871-4254 or email him at tballantyne@SteamboatPilot.com.