Gold Hill rapist in prisoner work site program

GOLD HILL — A former Little League coach, sentenced to 30 days for raping a 14-year-old girl who played on his softball team, served two days in jail and is now participating in a work-release program, community justice officials said.

Eric Robert Sell, 32, pleaded guilty in October to one charge of third-degree rape, a felony defined under Oregon law as sexual contact with a person who is too young to give consent.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Patricia Crain on Jan. 11 sentenced Sell to 30 days in jail and three years' supervised probation.

Sell, who declined to comment at his sentencing, reported to the Jackson County Jail on Monday and spent about 48 hours in a cell. But after supervisory authorities determined Sell met the criteria for work release, he was transferred to the 156-bed transitional center in Talent, said Community Justice Director Shane Hagey.

Prisoners remain at the center for the duration of their sentence and typically pick up trash at the side of the highway, participate in fuel reduction programs under contract with the Bureau of Land Management or clean up along the Bear Creek Greenway during the day, Hagey said.

"He's not going home. He's going out on work crews. They have him out paying his debt to society doing some work in the community," said Hagey.

An inmate's prior criminal history and flight risk are some of the criteria used to determine eligibility for work release programs.

All inmates have case managers who are monitoring them, Hagey said.

Sell met the victim while coaching the Gold Valley National Little League team in Gold Hill. The girl told investigators that she and Sell had sexual contact several times in June and July, said David Hoppe, Jackson County deputy district attorney.

Sell was originally indicted on one count of third-degree rape and three counts of third-degree sex abuse, Hoppe said.

"He pled guilty to the top charge," he said.

The decision to move Sell from jail to a work release program was not made by the district attorney's office, Hoppe said.

"I'm not involved in those decisions. Judge Crain sentenced Sell to the Jackson County Supervisory Authority subject to modification," said Hoppe.

Sell also had a drunk driving arrest in July, according to his attorney, Carl Caplan.

Hagey said he understood the case was "emotionally charged" within the community because of Sell's position as a coach and the media coverage. But transfers to work release programs are standard for criminals not deemed to be an "extreme danger to the community," he said.

"We're not treating him any different than anyone else. If he were to get in trouble, we could move him back to jail," Hagey said.

Crain also ordered Sell to register as a sex offender, undergo sex abuse counseling, submit to HIV, DNA and polygraph testing, and have no contact with the victim or unsupervised visitation with minors.

Sell could get started on his mandatory sex abuse treatment or take classes in cognitive restructuring and drug and alcohol counseling while he is at the Talent center, said Hagey.

"Jail is a tool we need to have in our system. But the focus is to find a way to rehabilitate offenders. And I think it's a little more constructive use of time than just having someone sitting in a jail cell," said Hagey.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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