A man accused of molesting his young granddaughter pleaded for probation Friday at a pre-sentencing hearing, saying prison time would kill him.
"He would just lose the force to live," a psychologist testified Friday.
William Van Dyke, 77, pleaded guilty in August to one count of attempted rape for at least three separate incidents with the girl, now 12, that ended in October 1999.
State sentencing guidelines call for prison up to five years in such cases.
But Friday, defense attorney Jim Rumsey asked District Judge Michael Malone to show mercy at the Oct. 20 sentencing.
Rumsey said that Van Dyke has an assortment of physical ailments. Van Dyke's therapist, Robert Schulman, said his client suffers depression that would be exacerbated by prison.
"I think the seriousness of the depression, coupled with the physical problems ... although he might not cut his wrists or hang himself, he would commit himself to die," Schulman said.
Schulman said he believed Van Dyke posed no more danger to children.
"He understands and repents what happened with his granddaughter, and he takes responsibility for it," Schulman said.
Douglas County Assistant Dist. Atty. Angela Wilson delivered an angry response to Van Dyke's request. Van Dyke, she said, "should be depressed" because of his crime.
"The Legislature says that when you attempt to rape a child, you go to prison for that offense," she said. "There's nothing in the statute that says, 'Except if you're old, except if your health is failing.'"
Wilson noted the girl has cerebral palsy.
"The fact that he took advantage of a child, his granddaughter, who was particularly vulnerable, should cut against his arguments of mitigation," she said.
Van Dyke took the stand briefly toward the end of the hearing. He said he was scared of prison, but he offered no explanation for his actions just an assessment of how they have affected his family.
"It's just devastating," he said. "I've ruined their lives."