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Former CultureWorks owner sentenced to prison on sex abuse, drug charges

The former owner of Ashland's CultureWorks was sentenced today to prison for supplying a 14-year-old girl with marijuana and sexually abusing her.

Christopher Ian Iverson, 45, pleaded guilty today in Jackson County Circuit Court to unlawful delivery of marijuana to a minor and two counts of third-degree sex abuse. Circuit Court Judge J. Adam Peterson sentenced Iverson to the maximum prison term of a year and eight months despite arguments by Iverson's defense attorney that a punishment of supervised probation would better serve the community.

"He does exhibit predatory behavior," said Virgina Greer, Jackson County deputy district attorney. "These kids were at risk. They participated in a drug culture; they had problems at home."

The victim, said Greer, was one in a group of teens who worked at or frequented CultureWorks, a live-music venue and event center with vegetarian restaurant in Ashland's Oak Street Plaza. At CultureWorks "after-parties" between 2010 and 2011, Iverson often supplied the teens with drugs, she said. The victim and at least one other girl also received cosmetics, food and other items from Iverson in exchange for sexual favors, she said.

Now 18, the victim told the court that she initially thought Iverson was offering her "the opportunity of a lifetime," but as she suffered repeated sexual abuse, she lost her best friend who doesn't consider herself a victim in the case. Iverson was not convicted of abusing that woman, described as his current girlfriend and prey to Iverson's continued manipulations, Greer told the court.

A self-described activist and past member of the Ashland Forest Lands Commission, Iverson has remained in jail since his Jan. 3 arrest. Ashland police began investigating Iverson in early 2011 based on reports that he was providing marijuana, nitrous oxide and MDMA — an ingredient in the illegal drug Ecstasy — to minors during events at CultureWorks and at other events in Oregon. The case against him accelerated when the victim contacted police last year.

Iverson apologized to the victim for "hurting her."

— Sarah Lemon

Read more in Friday's paper.