BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge told an Oregon man Monday that Congress had him in mind when it made crossing a state line in violation of a protection order a federal crime.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock sentenced Frederick Conrad Staehle Jr., 43, of Lincoln City, Ore., to five years in prison, the maximum allowed by law.
“Congress recognized that domestic violence was a problem nationally,” Woodcock said in sentencing Staehle. “When Congress enacted this law, they were thinking of people just like you, Mr. Staehle. People with a criminal record, a history of violence against women, a history of violating protection orders and a history of traveling out of state in violation of those orders.”
Although his wife testified at the trial that she left Oregon willingly, Staehle committed a federal crime when he left that state with an active protection order in place forbidding him contact with his wife and children.
Staehle was found guilty by a federal jury on April 24 after a two-day trial in which he defended himself and his wife testified against him. Staehle, his wife and two small children traveled in late 2007 from Oregon by way of New Orleans to Ellsworth, where he was arrested at a motel in January.
“Your trial was an extraordinary and, in my view, painful event,” Woodcock said. “Your federal criminal jury trial was in effect a divorce that culminated with what was a harsh exchange between you and [your wife]. That ended with your taking your wedding ring off your finger and throwing it on the floor before the jury.”
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, Staehle faced between 77 and 96 months in prison because of his criminal record and other factors. The maximum sentence under the statute is five years, so Staehle could not be sentenced to more than 60 months in federal prison.
Staehle served six years in Louisiana in the 1980s for armed robbery and assault. His record includes more recent misdemeanor convictions for domestic assaults in Oregon and Washington state. There also are seven outstanding warrants for his arrest in other states, the judge said Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James McCarthy urged Woodcock to impose a five-year sentence. Defense attorney Richard Hartley of Bangor, who assisted Staehle during the trial, urged Woodcock to impose a lesser sentence.
Staehle apologized to the court.
“I never in my life thought I’d be in so much trouble for trying to fix a marriage,” he said, referring to his testimony at the trail that he and his family left Oregon to start a new life. “I’ve made some bad mistakes, but I’m not a criminal.”
Woodcock also sentenced Staehle to three years of supervised release after his prison term. Conditions include mental health counseling with an emphasis on domestic violence and-or anger management. He also may have no contact with his wife, with whom Staehle has two children, his ex-wife, with whom he has two sons, or his ex-girlfriend, with whom he has a daughter, without the permission of his probation officer.
“You seem to need to control others, but you barely control yourself,” the judge told Staehle, referring to the defendant’s frequent emotional outbursts at his bail hearing and trial. “You are a man of strong emotions, but you keep a loose rein on those emotions. As a result, you attempt to control those around you.
“By seeking so desperately to control others,” Woodcock continued, “you’re ending up in a place where others have control over you. The best way to maintain your own freedom is to give those around you theirs.”
Staehle remained relatively calm Monday but did weep several times during the hearing.
He has been held without bail since his arrest on Jan. 23 and is expected to be credited with time served.
The location of his wife and children has not been made public.