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Former Duluth scout leader sentenced for decades-old sex assault

Judge Heather Sweetland told Edwin Culbert she took into consideration that he was 78 years old when she sentenced him Monday for two sexual assault convictions.

Edwin Culbert
Edwin Culbert

Judge Heather Sweetland told Edwin Culbert she took into consideration that he was 78 years old when she sentenced him Monday for two sexual assault convictions.

The judge might also have considered that Culbert attained the rank of major as a navigator with the Air National Guard, worked with youth as an assistant scout master with the Boy Scouts and as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, that he served as a member of his neighborhood Citizen Patrol and that she received more than two dozen letters from people who wanted leniency for Culbert because the man they knew wouldn't sexually assault a boy.

Before imposing sentence, Sweetland told those assembled in State District Court in Duluth: "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

The judge told Culbert that he has had 20 years of freedom while the man he sexually abused two decades ago has not and sentenced Culbert to 7 years, 2 months in prison, the guideline prison sentence in effect at the time of the crimes. The same first-degree offense committed under today's sentencing guidelines is punished by a 12-year prison sentence.

If he follows prison rules, Culbert will receive conditional release after serving about 4½ years.

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A St. Louis County jury found him guilty in March of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

"My life will never be what it was or could have been had I not been a victim of the crime Edwin Culbert committed," the 34-year-old man said in his victim's impact statement to the court. "Mentally and emotionally, I'll never be the same. ... My parents tried to raise a broken child."

The man said the molestation -- which occurred between 1990 and 1994 -- disintegrated his relationship with his brother and parents, who continued to be friends with Culbert, not knowing what Culbert was doing.

At trial, the victim testified that he didn't know who he could tell about the abuse. He said he knew that Culbert was a respected member of the community and he was a boy. He said Culbert forced himself on him and told him that they were soul mates. He told one friend of the abuse and he told his wife about it the day after they were married. He reported the abuse to Duluth police on Feb. 10, 2010, and charges were filed July 13, 2010.

The victim said he has problems with intimacy and trust as an adult because of the molestation. He has problems giving his own children baths and changing their diapers. Without the support of his understanding wife, he said he would have been consumed by shame and lack of self-worth.

Culbert had the opportunity to address the court before being sentenced.

"I am sorry, sorry for (victim) and his family," he said, adding that he was also sorry for his family and the community "that are so disappointed."

Culbert worked for an insurance company in Duluth. He has been married three times and is the father of two adult daughters from his first marriage. The letters to the court on his behalf talked about his kindness and that he was generous with his time helping others.

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The wife of a former Boy Scout volunteer wrote that when her husband developed dementia, Culbert would visit him at the Veteran's Hospital and wheel him around the grounds. An 87-year-old aunt said that Culbert would take her out to lunch and grocery shopping. A cancer patient wrote that Culbert sat with her during her recovery.

Sweetland talked about the outpouring of letters from some well-known people supporting Culbert, but said some didn't appear to know the facts of the case. She said the testimony that convicted Culbert was compelling.

The victim's father presented an especially angry and emotional victim impact statement to the court.

"Ed Culbert did the worst thing after molesting my son: He tried to befriend him and continued to befriend his brother," he said, adding that he had considered Culbert a family friend. "Now he is the biggest enemy I've ever met in my life."

The victim's father said he didn't want Culbert sent to a maximum security prison in this country. He wanted him sent to a prison in some country like Turkey, Cuba or Afghanistan. He asked the court to "make Culbert incommunicado until he's dead and buried in prison."

Defense attorney Rodney Brodin asked the court to depart from sentencing guidelines and place Culbert on probation. He argued that Culbert had the support of many members of the community, was especially amenable to probation and was willing to take part in a sex offender treatment program.

But to depart from sentencing guidelines, Sweetland would have needed to find that there were "substantial and compelling" reasons to do so.

St. Louis County prosecutor Gary Bjorklund argued that there was no reason to depart from sentencing guidelines. He said there were more aggravating factors involved in Culbert's actions than mitigating factors: He said the victim was especially vulnerable, Culbert was in a position of authority and there were multiple acts of the crime committed over an extended period of time.

Related Topics: CRIME
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