On Nov. 5, 2018, Pershing County’s 11th Judicial Court arraigned Cole Lewis Stremler, 24, on charges of sexual assault and statutory sexual seduction. Stremler’s alleged victim was his adopted sister, 17.

On May 29, 2019, Stremler pleaded no-contest to the lesser charge of coercion, a non-sexual felony punishable by one to six years in prison. The offense is eligible for probation. The court treats a no contest plea the same as a guilty plea.

This past Monday, Oct. 28, the defendant came to court for sentencing.

According to court records, Mike and Barbara Stremler had three biological sons. Later, the Stremlers adopted three African American children, including the victim. The family owned and operated a ranch in Jersey Valley, a remote area of Pershing County. The children attended home school and worked cattle. The older boys hunted and trapped.

Theresa Ristenpart, a trial attorney from Reno, defended Stremler. DDA Todd Banks represented the State of Nevada.

Ristenpart read statements from Stremler’s mother and siblings. A friend also vouched for Stremler’s character. They each implored the judge to grant probation.

Mike Stremler gave a victim impact statement.

“I may be losing all my sons, but I’m not wrong in sticking up for my daughter,” he said. He and the victim sat on the opposite side of the room from the rest of the family. Grief overcame Stremler and other family members as they testified.

Judge Jim Shirley ordered Cole Stremler to complete a program of residential discipline known as boot camp.  According to the NDOC website, boot camp offers a military lifestyle, combining educational and physical training including manual labor. Participants attend camp for up to 190 days. After they exit the program, the camp recommends either probation or incarceration.

To be eligible for regimental discipline, the offender must stand convicted of a nonviolent felony. Stremler pleaded no contest to coercion, which implies the threat or use of force.

However, Nevada law allows for exceptions if the District Attorney’s office so stipulates. DDA Banks stipulated Stremler’s eligibility for boot camp.

After he finishes boot camp, Stremler will begin serving three years of probation. He must have no contact with the victim.

In arriving at his decision, the judge considered the defendant’s clean record, support system and low risk of re-offending, as determined by the Department of Parole and Probation. 

He weighed those mitigating factors against “the gravity of what the victim says happened to her — years of sexual abuse and intimidation.” Judge Shirley called the victim’s testimony “very credible” and cited the existence of corroborating evidence.

The victim testified that she agreed to allow Anderson’s plea bargain, believing it would be best for her family.

“The judge gave Stremler one week to get his affairs in order before reporting to the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office.

Other cases

• At his arraignment on Sept. 5, 2018, Michael John Schwarzenberg pleaded not guilty to allegations of assault with a deadly weapon. On Thursday, Oct. 24,  a jury agreed, acquitting him of all charges. David K Neidert represented the defendant. DDA Banks argued on behalf of the State of Nevada. 

• On Wednesday, Oct. 30, Judge Steven P. Elliot sentenced Douglas Charles Anderson for unlawful use of a controlled substance and the illegal possession of a hypodermic device. 

Due to a possible breach of the plea agreement, Judge Shirley recused himself from the case several months ago, after authorizing Anderson’s release from jail to the Vitality Treatment Center.

On Wednesday, PD Steve Cochran entered documentation of Anderson’s recent graduation from the inpatient rehabilitation center in Elko, NV.

Anderson exercised his right of allocution. He spoke about two major life events – the death of his grandmother and the birth of his child. Both sides of the bench referred to Anderson’s history with the court as a “long and winding road.” Through it all, Grandma Beverly was his staunchest defender. She was a familiar presence at all his court hearings.

“My grandma’s not here no more, so I have to honor her,” he said. “She was a rock. Without her, it’s going to be hard for everybody.”

Anderson also expressed determination to help raise his newborn child.

“Everything I’ve got, I’ve worked for, he said. “I’m not who I was in 2013. Life changed me.”

Judge Elliot gave Anderson a suspended sentence with three years of probation.