Former teacher, ex-Husker sentenced in sex-abuse case
In a crowded courtroom Tuesday, a former Pound Middle School teacher and ex-Husker football player learned he would go to prison for the sexual relationship he denied having with a 15-year-old girl.
Despite his denials, Sean Applegate, 41, had pleaded no contest in the case.
“The short of it is, Mr. Applegate, you’ve been found guilty of attempted sexual assault and child abuse,” Lancaster County District Judge Andrew Jacobsen told him, before sentencing him to 15 to 20 years in prison.
Applegate at one point had been the girl’s teacher, and she saw him as something of a father figure, the judge said.
“You used that position of trust and took advantage of a 15-year-old girl,” Jacobsen said.
Minutes earlier, Applegate asked for probation, saying the whole process has been horrible for him and his family. People will believe what they want to believe, he said.
“Sometimes you don’t know why things happen, but you try to move on from them,” he said.
Applegate asked for an opportunity to see his 18-year-old son graduate from high school and 8-year-old son ride his bicycle again.
“I’m not a person that does bad things. I never have been. I never will be,” he said. “I just beg for your mercy.”
Last year, a 19-year-old woman made a report to Lincoln police that Applegate had sexually assaulted her during the summer of 2013, after her sophomore year of high school.
On April 13, 2017, wearing a recording device, she confronted Applegate about what he’d done to her when she was 15 and 16.
In the affidavit for his arrest, police said Applegate apologized and told her it was wrong because of her age at the time but that he was “in love” with her when they engaged in those sexual acts.
Police arrested him that day.
At sentencing Tuesday, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Charles Byrd argued against probation, calling Applegate a sex offender in denial.
“Mr. Applegate has little if any rehabilitative potential,” he said. “The first step of any effective treatment program is acceptance of responsibility.”
He said this wasn’t a single, isolated incident. Yet, Byrd said, Applegate has made no statements of any culpability or acknowledging his conduct and has made no statements of remorse or empathy toward the victim.
Byrd said Applegate got leniency in the plea deal and didn’t deserve more.
Then, the judge sentenced him to 15 to 20 years on the attempted sex assault charge and four to five years on the child abuse charge, to be served concurrently.
Applegate will be eligible for parole after seven and a half years.
As deputies put handcuffs on him, he told his family he loved them.
He had been a teacher at Pound for 10 years when he was arrested. Applegate, who lettered at NU from 1997-99, had been working as a construction foreman.