ORANGE CITY—A former Sioux Center Christian School teacher received a sentence of 60 years in a state prison Friday afternoon, Jan. 11, for having improper sexual contact with several young boys.
People packed inside the second-floor courtroom at the Sioux County Courthouse in Orange City and watched as 3rd District Judge Steven Andreasen handed down the sentence to 37-year-old Curtis Lee Van Dam, who was handcuffed and dressed in a black-and-white striped jumpsuit and orange Crocs.
Andreasen also ordered that Van Dam’s sentence for the state charges he was facing be served consecutively with a 15-year federal prison sentence that the Sioux Center man received in September for a total of 75 years behind bars.
“There is no sentence that this court can impose that will undo what has been done,” Andreasen told the people in attendance near the end of the roughly three-hour sentencing hearing.
During a plea-taking hearing on Nov. 30, Van Dam pleaded guilty in Sioux County District Court to the following seven charges:
- One count of second-degree sexual abuse, a Class B felony.
- Five counts of third-degree sexual abuse, which are Class C felonies.
- One count of sexual exploitation by a school employee, a Class D felony.
During the plea-taking hearing, Van Dam admitted to Andreasen that he had taken part in separate sexual acts with six victims — all of them were male students, one of whom was under the age of 12 — against their will.
Parole is not available in the federal prison system. Van Dam has to serve at least 17.5 years in a state prison before he receives parole eligibility, so he will serve 32.5 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole.
In the federal case, U.S. District Chief Judge Leonard Strand sentenced Van Dam on Sept. 12 to the statutory minimum of 15 years in a federal correctional facility.
Van Dam pleaded guilty on June 11 in U.S. District Court in Sioux City to one felony count of sexual exploitation of a child as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.
A charge of possession of child pornography against Van Dam was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. The federal counts were unrelated to the state charges.
During the sentencing hearing on Friday, Jan. 11, in Orange City, 19 victim impact statements were read out loud mostly by parents of victims who wanted to inform Van Dam of the effects his actions had on them, their children and other family members.
Van Dam was accused of betraying the trust of the victims and their parents and was called “evil,” as well as a “monster” and a “pedophile.” All of the impact statements asked Andreasen to hand down the maximum state sentence to Van Dam and run it consecutively with his federal sentence.
According to a plea agreement between prosecutors and the defense, Van Dam has to register with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry for the rest of his life.
If and when he is ever released from prison, Van Dam will be on parole for the rest of his life because of a special sex offender sentence he received.
If he violated the special sentence’s terms, Van Dam could be sent back to behind bars. He also has to pay civil penalties in the amount of $1,750.
Van Dam originally had pleaded not guilty to 103 felony charges and 43 serious misdemeanor counts for sexually abusing at least 13 male children — some or all of whom were under the age of 12 or 13 — August 2014-October 2017 in various locations while he was teaching, coaching and pastoring.
In addition to being charged with second- and third-degree sexual abuse and sexual exploitation by a school employee, Van Dam had been facing counts of lascivious acts with a child, lascivious conduct with a minor and indecent exposure.
However, as a part of the plea agreement, the rest of the 139 state charges against Van Dam were dismissed.
A complaint was made to the Sioux Center Police Department on Oct. 18, 2017, that Van Dam asked a child to disrobe and urinate in a bottle. That launched the initial investigation.
Van Dam was fired the next day from his longtime position as a fifth-grade teacher with Sioux Center Christian School. He also coached seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball. Authorities were contacted, leading to the initial criminal charges and Van Dam’s arrest on Oct. 23, 2017.
According to court documents, the state charges contended that Van Dam exposed himself to a child, persuaded a child to disrobe, touched the genitals of a child under 12 numerous times and solicited a child to engage in other sexual acts.