DICKINSON, N.D. -- A former longtime Dickinson State University biology professor will serve 10 years in prison for the continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Dr. Lynn C. Burgess submitted an open plea of guilt in February for willfully engaging in sexual acts with a minor who was under the age of 15 during a period of three or more months, and was sentenced by District Court Judge Rhonda R. Ehlis to 20 years with 10 years suspended.

“We are pleased with the outcome and Judge Ehlis was very thoughtful and thorough in handling this case,” Tom Henning, Stark County State’s Attorney, said. “We believe that the judge felt that the defendant knew what he was doing and understood the inappropriateness of it and our arguments were that the ceiling recommended by the state was very much within similar sentencing within the area.”

According to court documents, Burgess fondled the breasts of the minor over a period of approximately three years — a Class AA felony in the state of North Dakota.

The defendant was represented by Jackson Lofgren of Suhr and Lofgren in Bismarck, a seasoned attorney and Assistant Morton County State's Attorney.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Lofgren argued that the duration of sexual offender treatment was sufficient a sentence for incarceration considering the record of Burgess, a contention the court disagreed with.

Burgess, who is listed on the Dickinson State University website as a Faculty Emeriti, worked at the university starting in 1999.

According to the North Dakota Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, cases of child sexual abuse is a problem with short and long term effects for those who are victimized. One in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse in North Dakota and according to the National Center for Victims of Crime 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported 56,382 cases of child sexual abuse to state child and family service agencies. In 2016, the North Dakota Department of Human Services responded to over 14,000 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect, and the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office (2017) reported 587 child sexual abuse victims.

In 2017, in the course of a social service or law enforcement investigation, 774 children were referred to North Dakota Children’s Advocacy Centers for sexual abuse allegations. With significant cost to families and communities, including primary and rehabilitative health care costs, education and welfare assistance, child protection and justice system costs, the consequences of CSA are far reaching.