updated 7/17/2007 3:09:31 PM ET 2007-07-17T19:09:31

A judge had valid reasons for sentencing a 5-foot-1 sex offender to probation, even though she cited the offender's height as part of her rationale, the Nebraska Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

An examination by a clinical psychologist and the results of a test used to determine the risk that Richard W. Thompson would reoffend both indicated that Thompson, 52, is neither a pedophile nor a sexual predator, the court said.

District Judge Kristine Cecava of Cheyenne County sentenced Thompson last year to 10 years of probation for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

"So I'm sitting here thinking this guy has earned his way to prison, but then I look at you and I look at your physical size. I look at your basic ability to cope with people and, quite frankly, I shake to think what might happen to you in prison because I don't think you'll do well in prison," Cecava said in court, according to a court transcript of the hearing.

The sentence prompted local and national criticism, and Attorney General Jon Bruning appealed the sentence to the Nebraska Court of Appeals and sought a prison term for Thompson.

"After our review of the crimes, the sentences, and the information in the PSI (pre-sentence investigation), we have no hesitancy in saying that the sentences are not an abuse of discretion and, therefore, are not excessively lenient," the court said.

Bruning's spokeswoman did not immediately return calls for comment Tuesday. Thompson's lawyer, Clarence Mock, also did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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