Fargo woman sentenced to 4 years for sex assaults on two boys
By Emily Welker / The Forum
FARGO – Until recently, what the community has read about Jeffrey Berg shows him to be a convicted sex offender.
But with Carrie Jean Berg’s sentencing Monday to almost four years in prison after she pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Berg 17 years ago and another boy in 2008, we now know for the first time that Berg was a victim, too.
“It’s been a long road,” he said.
Carrie Berg, 39, of Fargo was sentenced Monday in Cass County District Court on two counts of Class A felony gross sexual imposition against victims who were younger than 15 years old.
It was a case Cass County prosecutor Ryan Younggren thought he might not be able to prosecute.
Not that the case wasn’t serious enough to warrant prosecution.
Originally charged with a Class AA felony, Carrie Berg could have faced life in prison upon conviction.
But in this case, not only was the evidence nearly two decades old, but both victims were now convicted child molesters themselves.
Police reports said Carrie Berg reported in 1997 that she was sexually assaulted by then-14-year-old Jeffrey.
To the court system, it was easier to portray Jeffrey, who was convicted as a 12-year-old of molesting a 6-year-old girl he knew, as a predator rather than as a victim.
Even the 1998 conviction of another woman for molesting Jeffrey three years earlier didn’t call Carrie Berg’s story into question.
It was only when a boy known to Carrie Berg was investigated for molesting a younger child that Fargo police reopened the old case.
Inconsistencies in Carrie Berg’s version of the 1997 incident, plus physical evidence, led investigators to conclude Jeffrey Berg was her victim.
“It frustrated me that it took 17 years,” said Jeffrey Berg, 31, of Moorhead. “I think I was doomed from the day I came out of the womb.”
Unless they have given consent, as Jeffrey Berg has done, The Forum does not typically identify the victims of sex assaults.
Jeffrey Berg’s mother took the stand at Carrie Berg’s sentencing to say the attack changed her son from a happy, normal child into an angry child who was ultimately hospitalized after a suicide attempt.
“He felt no one cared about him, no one would listen to him, and his life didn’t matter,” said Kari Radtke.
Not even the experts who put Berg through sex offender treatment would listen, said his wife, Amy Berg.
As part of his treatment, “He had to actually admit that he assaulted Carrie,” Amy Berg said. “He basically had to lie to them.”
In some ways, what followed his release was even worse, Jeffrey Berg said.
“I know, based on my own experience, that being a registered sex offender is a life sentence,” he said.
He spoke with The Forum in 2007 about living out of his car when he was unable to find housing. He would also land jobs but lose them the minute his name would appear in the paper, he said.
He is no longer required to register as a sex offender in the state of North Dakota.
That experience is part of why he and his wife were prepared to accept a deal struck by prosecutors and Carrie Berg’s defense attorney. It called for 18 months in prison, with 10 years of supervised probation. Including the time she’s already served, Carrie Berg would have gotten out of jail in two months and 10 days under the plea agreement.
The case was complicated for prosecutors because of potential problems with the statute of limitation in old sexual assault cases and because Carrie Berg left no physical evidence of her assault on the younger victim, unlike in Jeffrey Berg’s case.
“There have been times when I’ve woken up with a jolt and thought, ‘I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing here,’ ” said Younggren in making his sentencing recommendation. “But as I stand here today, I think I am.”
At her sentencing, Carrie Berg’s attorney pointed out her strong work history, her almost total lack of criminal history and her supportive family members who were in the first row of the gallery.
Kenneth Forster, Carrie Berg’s father, and his family members said they were shocked when Judge Wickham Corwin sentenced her to more than what was agreed to in the plea deal.
Forster said his daughter was as much a victim of the psychological damage wrought by sexual abuse as were the two male victims in the case.
“I do believe there’s been some vengeance” for the accusations she made against Jeffrey Berg, Forster said.
Younggren said the Berg case highlights similar stories in the criminal justice system.
He said he often hears from defense attorneys who say their clients have been victimized themselves, often by molesters who have gone unpunished.
“This just happens to be one of those cases where we were able to track down that other person,” he said.
Besides sentencing Carrie Berg to almost four years in prison, Corwin sentenced her to serve 10 years of supervised probation once she’s released from prison.
She’s also prohibited from having contact with children, including her younger victim, who is now in sex offender treatment.