David Edward Sayler, 29, was sentenced Thursday, Oct. 8, in Clay County District Court on a fourth-degree felony of criminal sexual conduct.
In addition to 10 years of supervised probation, Judge Michelle Lawson ordered Sayler to spend 120 days in the Clay County Jail, despite a plea by defense attorney Daniel Hopper to allow Sayler to serve 90 days on electronic home monitoring instead. Sayler also will have to register as a sex offender.
“This is a case that requires jail time,” Lawson said.
The sentencing settles one of two sexual conduct cases in the Fargo-Moorhead area involving Sayler’s claims to women he was conducting a medical study. In the Clay County case, the owner of Summit Fitness told a woman he was recruiting people to help with a study on Parkinson’s disease, according to court documents.
The woman initially declined but later agreed to help after Sayler kept asking her to participate. Over the course of several months in 2018, Sayler would either have the woman stand in front of him and press her buttocks against his groin while he held her hips, or have her straddle his groin so he could put his hands on her buttocks, according to court documents.
The woman told Lawson that she felt shocked, violated and belittled by Sayler. She also noted how he lied about the study so easily.
“I felt and just knew he had done this before,” she said.
The woman later found out there was no study and that other women had the same type of encounters, she said in court Thursday. Sayler faces similar allegations in Cass County, where he has pleaded not guilty.
She called Sayler a “master predator and manipulator,” stating he told others she was lying when she came forward with her accusations. The woman and prosecutor Cecilia Knapp said Sayler has not taken responsibility for his actions, but instead minimized his sexual behavior and made excuses.
“To say he made a mistake is an understatement,” Knapp said.
Hopper disagreed and said his client has sought treatment, has “gone above and beyond” to do what the court has asked of him and understands what he did was wrong.
Sayler acknowledged the impact his actions had on the woman, but said he has taken responsibility for his action by mentoring others. He said stress impaired his judgment, but he has disclosed the criminal proceedings to clients.
He wants to continue his work as a trainer and be a positive message to others.
“I’m blessed that this has happened so I can move forward,” he said.
Sayler should never be allowed to work in the career that he used to sexually assault women, the woman said. She said she will be scarred by what happened to her forever, and she doesn’t want that to happen to others.
“I’m here to protect the women of our community,” she said. “I am here for any woman who may encounter David in the future.”
She said she has sacrificed work to help those women and to prevent others from becoming victims, something she said she would do all over again.
“I felt that I needed to be the strength for the other two women I discovered,” she said.
Lawson said Sayler cannot have any female clients for a year after his release from jail, nor can he train children for that time. Sayler’s probation officer will be allowed to determine if those restrictions should be relaxed or lifted at any time during his probation.
The Forum typically does not identify victims in sexual assault cases.