RIGBY — A man who tried to strangle a young relative will spend one year on a rider.
Alexander Berberian, 19, was recently sentenced to 12 years years in prison with five years fixed and seven years indeterminate for attempting to strangle an 11-year-old relative. District Judge Stevan Thompson retained jurisdiction and sent Berberian on a one-year rider program to undergo mental health treatment.
A rider is when a judge sends a person to prison for up to a year to undergo different treatment programs including mental health and drug abuse treatment. When the individual has completed the program the judge can then decide to send them back to prison to complete their sentence or release them on probation.
“I just want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for hurting my family and especially (the victim). I realize my actions have caused a lot of pain and hurt the people I care about most,” Berberian said during the sentencing hearing.
Berberian was arrested on July 29, after law enforcement received the report he’d attacked the 11-year-old victim.
The victim told investigators Berberian got on top of her and started choking her. Court documents indicate he had brought a knife to kill the victim if she screamed and a taser to use on anyone that might catch him in her room.
However, when the victim managed to scream, he fled the room and dropped the knife and taser on the floor.
Berberian went to a friend’s house and asked the friend to call the police. When law enforcement arrived, Berberian admitted to the crime and he was taken into custody.
Berberian told police he was mad at the victim’s family and that he had thought about strangling the 11-year-old every day for a month. He told investigators he picked her because “he saw her as an easy target.”
Jefferson County Prosecutor Paul Butikofer said Berberian is described as a narcissist in his psychological evaluation.
“He blamed the family and others that took him in,” Butikofer said during the hearing. “He’s deflecting responsibility, which is what narcissists do.”
Butikofer said the presentence investigation shows before Berberian attacked the victim, she was happy, bright, talkative and creative. Now, she is struggling with social anxiety, she has difficulty sleeping, she’s sensitive to noise, she blames herself for what happened and is afraid of strangers.
“She’s scared of strangers because she believes they’ll be like (Berberian) and love her but then hurt her,” Butikofer quoted from the investigation report.
Berberian’s attorney John Stosich said Berberian was taken into child protective services at a young age due to neglect and abandonment and put into foster care.
“Until (his adoptive family) took Alex in and made him part of their family, he never really had an opportunity to become anything but egocentric,” Stosich said.
Stosich went on to emphasize the need Berberian has for mental health treatment.
“I don’t think Alex is without redemption,” Stosich said.
Thompson said a couple of the factors he considered while determining the sentence were Berberian’s age and his ability to be rehabilitated.
“The bottom line is, Mr. Berberian, you need some help and assistance. Whatever the court does today it’s not going to be intended so much for punishment as it is towards trying to do what we can to assist you to get you moving forward in your life in a positive direction,” Thompson said.
Thompson went on to say he would not usually place someone on a rider for such a violent crime, but chose to retain jurisdiction because of his age.
“Regardless of what you have been going through in your life, you’re going to have to take responsibility. I’m hoping you’re in the right frame of mind and that you take advantage of what’s being offered to you rather than going and turning this into a prison sentence,” Thompson said.