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Former Ashland club owner jailed after sex-abuse plea

The former owner of Ashland's CultureWorks was sentenced to prison Thursday for plying a 14-year-old girl with marijuana to sexually abuse her.

Christopher Ian Iverson, 45, pleaded guilty Thursday 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 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 a vegetarian restaurant in Ashland's Oak Street Plaza. At CultureWorks' "afterparties" 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 said, she "buried" her soul in drugs and dropped out of school.

The charges were "not in any way the extent of what he did," she said.

The ordeal, the woman said, also cost her her best friend, who doesn't consider herself a victim in the case although she testified before the Jackson County grand jury. Iverson was not convicted of abusing that woman, who is described as his current girlfriend, 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, now closed, and at other events in Oregon. The case against him accelerated when the victim contacted police last year.

Iverson apologized in court to the victim for "hurting her." Ruling that Iverson should pay restitution toward the victim's counseling, Peterson waived most of his court fees. The conviction requires Iverson to register as a sex offender.

Reading from a written statement, Iverson told Peterson that he became depressed and turned to drug use when diagnosed with a bladder tumor and abandoned by his longtime girlfriend. Attending Thursday's hearing, that woman, now 26, said she also was one of Iverson's victims, meeting him at age 16. He was not charged with a crime in connection with their relationship.

Marijuana distribution led to Iverson's arrest in 2010 in Utah. He was convicted of a misdemeanor and sentenced to probation after piloting a plane with 6 pounds of marijuana on board from California to an airport in Tooele County, Utah.

In 2012, Iverson appeared in "The Green Goddess," a film that follows the fictional adventures of marijuana growers in Europe who are watched over by a goddess who lives inside marijuana. Police seized marijuana from Iverson's home upon his January arrest, said Greer.

Promoting citizen awareness of the Ashland watershed constituted much of Iverson's involvement from 2008 to 2011 with the city's Forest Lands Commission. In 2009, he submitted a proposal to use an 846-acre piece of undeveloped city land for an eco-village. City officials rejected the plan.

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail slemon@mailtribune.com.

Former Ashland club owner jailed after sex-abuse plea