By Bill Roberts
A 67-year-old former Pahrump teacher and Nye County School District trustee-elect, who has served roughly a quarter of his life in prison for sexually assaulting a student, has been released after being granted parole.
Joseph S. Peterson, who reportedly relocated to Wyoming, went to prison in 1996 after pleading guilty to one count of sexual assault before Fifth Judicial District Court Judge John Davis. He received a sentence of life in prison.
According to a June report from the State of Nevada Department of Corrections, Peterson was granted parole with an “action date” of June 4 and an “effective date” of Aug. 1.
Peterson had been an inmate at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center with a medium custody level.
A spokesman for the department of corrections said in August that Peterson would be released after submitting a “suitable relocation plan” to the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation.
It was suggested that Peterson, to avoid Nevada inquiries, might need only to register in another jurisdiction where he relocated after release.
Information provided by the Wyoming sex offender registry recently included an “offender profile” for Joseph Stuart Peterson.
It indicates he was born Feb. 16, 1945 at Marquette, Miss., is six feet tall, weighing 195 pounds with blue eyes and white hair.
He registered with Wyoming authorities Sept. 10 and a photo accompanying this story was taken in Wyoming on that date. The report says his duty to register is “pending,” his registration status is “compliant” and his next registration due date is “pending.”
Under the Wyoming report, Peterson’s status is “out of state.” He was convicted of sexual assault on April 9, 1996 and his place of conviction was Pahrump.
According to the Wyoming SOR, Peterson’s home address is 236 Custer St., Lander, WY 82520 (Fremont Co.).
A 27-year teacher at the time of his election to the school board in November 1994, he also was a longtime coach and was honored as coach of the year in basketball, volleyball and softball. In the sports seasons immediately before his arrest he most often was a coach of girls’ teams.
He was arrested less than two weeks after winning election in school district area seven by a margin of 3,018 to 2,957 (61 votes) over Kirk Vitto.
Peterson was arrested on three counts of sexual assault.
Nye County Sheriff Wade Lieseke, Jr. said at the time of Peterson’s arrest, the investigation into allegations against Peterson went back some 16 years into the teacher’s past. Allegations involved instances shortly after Peterson was hired by the school district and involved many accusations of inappropriate behavior with students, according to the sheriff.
Eventually, Peterson pled guilty to a single sexual assault count. The victim in that complaint gave compelling testimony at Peterson’s sentencing. She was a 20-year-old mother.
Lieseke, who lives in Tonopah said, “I am surprised he would be granted parole.”
The former sheriff said the release probably was because Peterson was allowed to plead to only one count.
“If he was prosecuted properly, he may never have gotten out. He did his time. But it seems he didn’t do enough time,” said Lieseke.
The sheriff was personally involved in the long-ago investigation, including questioning witnesses. Back then, the sheriff told news reporters how difficult the case had been.
Recently he said, “This guy screwed up a lot of people’s lives. The guy’s actions were horrendous.”
His parole and incarceration were mentioned in a front page story of the Las Vegas Review-Journal of Monday, Sept. 24, relative to “loopholes for teacher sex.”
It described Peterson as “the catalyst for Nevada laws against such acts.”