Lewd conduct suspect pleads guilty

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SANDPOINT — A Sandpoint man accused of molesting two girls pleaded guilty Monday to a slightly amended charge of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor.

Lewd conduct is punishable by a lifelong prison sentence. A pretrial settlement agreement in John Theodore Cook’s case, however, recommends a five- to 15-year prison term. The court is not required to adopt the recommended sentence and Cook’s counsel is free to argue for a lesser sentence.

Cook, 52, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 21. He is free on bond while the case is pending.

Cook engaged in lewd conduct with two girls in the early 2000s, when they were between the ages of 8 and 10, and 10 and 12, respectively. He was originally charged with two counts of lewd conduct.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the two charges were rolled into a single lewd conduct charge incorporating both victims. In exchange for a plea to the amended charge, the state agreed not to file additional charges based on information that surfaced during the criminal investigation.

If Cook declined to accept the agreement and forced the state to proceed to a preliminary hearing, the state informed Cook that it would amend the charging information to reflect “all incidents of sexual conduct,” court records show.

Cook pleaded guilty during his arraignment in 1st District Court. Judge Steve Verby accepted plea as being entered knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently, according to court documents.

A presentence investigation is pending and Cook will be required to submit to a full-disclosure polygraph examination.

The allegations against Cook surfaced publicly last fall. One of the alleged victims disclosed the sexual abuse after her family relocated out of state, probable cause hearing testimony indicates.

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