A South Jersey drug-recovery advocate was sentenced Friday to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to criminal coercion in a sex-offense case involving his wife.
Andrew Burki, 39, of Collingswood, was the founder and chief executive of Life of Purpose Treatment, a substance-abuse recovery center in Boca Raton, Fla., and an official at a now-shuttered treatment center by the same name in Cherry Hill.
He also served as chief public policy officer of the Florida-based Hanley Foundation, which focuses on preventing substance-abuse disorders. After his February arrest in Camden County on charges of sexual assault, he was placed on leave from the foundation and from the board of Philadelphia’s Bridge Way School, a recovery high school in Holmesburg, officials at both organizations said.
Burki was charged with aggravated sexual assault after he was accused of forcing himself on his wife in November and causing her severe injury. He also was charged with sexual assault and aggravated assault in a January incident after he was accused of again forcing himself on her and causing bruising on her arms as he held her down.
After a grand jury heard evidence in the case, it indicted Burki on a charge of aggravated sexual assault in connection with the November incident.
In an April amended indictment, signed by Acting Assistant Prosecutor Erin Deitz, the first-degree charge against Burki was changed to fourth-degree criminal coercion, a lesser offense that carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison. The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office has declined to comment on why the charge was amended.
Two days later, Burki pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of criminal coercion during a virtual hearing before Camden County Superior Court Judge David Ragonese.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Burki, who had spent 2½ months behind bars, was released that day from the Camden County Correctional Facility. The prosecutor’s office agreed to recommend a sentence of probation, the term of which was to be up to the judge. Under the deal, Burki must have no contact with the victim and undergo anger-management counseling.
During Friday’s virtual sentencing hearing, the victim, 37, who is in the process of getting a divorce from Burki, asked the judge to sentence him to the maximum for the fourth-degree offense: 18 months in prison.
In a victim-impact statement, she told the judge she had suffered “severe mental, physical, and emotional abuse at the hands of [her] husband” over the past several years. What happened behind closed doors is “my word against his. No one saw what happened,” she said, telling the judge that Burki “brutally raped me” and “needs power and control.”
Burki told the judge that he “never had nonconsensual sexual relations with my wife during the five years of our marriage or the five years preceding.” He said he was “very saddened and ashamed” that his inability to resolve differences with his wife resulted in this criminal case and said he views “accepting this plea deal as a first step in finding resolution to those differences so that I can move on with my life.”
When he pleaded guilty in April, Burki admitted under questioning by his attorney, Stanley King, that he had restricted his wife’s freedom during the November incident, had sex with her after she complained of pain, and had threatened to inflict continuing pain.
Both Deitz and King on Friday asked the judge to accept the plea agreement. King told the judge he and the prosecutor went through an “extensive negotiation period” in “crafting this negotiated agreement.”
In an emailed statement Friday, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said it takes all reports of sexual assault seriously. “While we cannot comment on our prosecutorial methods and discretion, our assistant prosecutors diligently considered every aspect of this case, leading to the conviction and sentencing,” it said.