William John Easterling, 53, was ordered to spend 30 years in prison on one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor. The three sentences are to run consecutive to one another.
Easterling was also ordered to serve 10 years in prison for possession of child pornography. That sentence is to be served concurrent with the other convictions.
If he survives his incarceration, Easterling will be subject to 10 years of probation and will have to register as a sex offender, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney said.
Easterling was indicted on the charges in February 2018.
Police said he ordered a 16-year-old boy to video himself masturbating back in December 2015. Easterling also attempted to persuade a boy age 13-15 to do the same thing between September 2015 and March 2017.
The defendant was convicted of all four charges after a jury trial last year.
Easterling has maintained his innocence the entire time, instead claiming that one of the foster children was drinking alcohol, having sex with other boys and participating in “dark activities” on social media.
Easterling repeated himself over and over in a long statement that he was allowed to give prior to receiving his sentence.
Maloney called Easterling’s statement “bizarre,” and noted that the defendant was blaming everyone else and not himself.
Earlier in the afternoon hearing in Kalamazoo federal court, parents and grandparents of the boys gave victim impact statements to the judge.
The father of one of the boys called Easterling a “sick man,” noting that he had manipulated the children.
“For you, William, your life should end behind bars where you belong,” the father said. “I hope that you never forget the children you have abused and the damage you have done to your wife.”
The grandmother and mother of another child each grew more emotional as they claimed being deceived by a “God-fearing man” who only befriended them to get at their children.
“You have fooled so many people,” the grandmother said. “You have failed so many children that looked up to you.”
The grandmother said her grandson didn’t realize what was happening and allowed himself to be reassured by Easterling. She said her family met Easterling at church. She noted that he took her special-needs grandson under his wing and supervised him as he made friends with Easterling’s special-needs son.
“We allowed (him) to spend a lot of time with Bill,” the grandmother said. “We thought (Bill) was a blessing to us.”
The woman then turned and looked directly at Easterling.
“I would like you to please quit denying what you have done, to admit your mistakes to your son so our boys can be friends again,” she said to him.
The woman then became even more emotional.
“None of this makes me happy, because we did love you,” she said to Easterling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney General Alexis Sanford called Easterling one of the worst types of predators, noting that he used his good standing in the community to gain access to people and to manipulate their children.
Defense attorney Helen Nieuwenhuis asked the judge to take into consideration that Easterling did not have a criminal history, was married for 24 years prior to a divorce after this incident was revealed, was a tool and die journeyman with additional education, and maintained steady employment, unlike many people she defends. The attorney also said that Easterling has numerous health issues, including diabetes, cancer, and kidney and heart problems.
Nieuwenhuis said her client is not likely to live long enough to see the end of his prison term.
The judge said Easterling’s actions were “dastardly” and that he violated the trust the families had with him.
It’s very apparent “he just doesn’t get it,” Maloney said. “He doesn’t understand the victimization of the minors,” and that’s why he’s a public safety concern.
“Mr. Easterling himself needs to be specifically deterred,” the judge added. “A very significant sentence is necessary in this case.”
Easterling had been lodged in the Newaygo County Jail prior to being sentenced to prison.
Easterling had been a candidate for the state House 89th District (2010) and is a former member of the Robinson Township Zoning Board of Appeals. He is the son of the late Bill Easterling, who was a longtime Robinson Township fire chief.