“The first step in seeking redemption,” said Judge Jeffrey Sommer on Thursday during a sentencing hearing for the man who had shown contempt for the verdict against him by flashing obscene gestures at the jury who found him guilty of myriad crimes, including rape of a child, “is an acknowledgment of your actions.
“Then might come an expression of sorrow, and finally a plea for forgiveness,” said the judge, who had presided over the man’s trial in September and personally witnessed his courtroom demeanor. “But you have at no time taken responsibility for your actions, nor showed contrition, nor sought any type of forgiveness.”
Nothing in his past, nor his present, demonstrated that the man would ever be able to conform to appropriate public behavior in the future, the judge remarked.
Thus, Sommer handed down what is believed to be among the longest prison terms in recent Chester County history for the sexual abuse of children, although far short of the lengthiest. He sentenced the man to 85 to 170 years in state prison, at the time acknowledging that state sentencing guidelines that called for an even greater term were beyond what the legal maximums for his crimes permitted him to impose.
“There is never an excuse for rape,” Sommer said, as the man looked on almost impatiently from the defense table. “But then to compound it by that assaultive behavior and abuse directed at those who are your daughters is such a horrendous demonstration of evil that it demands” the sentence he imposed.
In his address to Sommer before the prison term was announced, the man offered no apology for what he was found guilty of, still maintaining that the children he abused when they were pre-teens had fabricated the events they testified to at his trial.
“I’ve been locked up my whole life,” said the burley, 32-year-old Coatesville native, who had been jailed for two robberies in the early 2000s. “I understand how Chester County works. “You’re already going to give me (a life sentence), and I’m cool with that. My family knows the truth. I know the truth. I love my kids. I don’t know what happened.
“Only God can judge me at the end of the day,” he declared.
MediaNews Group is withholding publication of the man’s name because it would tend to identify his daughters, both of whom still live in the county. MediaNews Group does not identify the victims of sexual crimes unless they have given their permission to do so.
The man was convicted by a jury on three counts of rape of a child, five counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a child, and other counts of aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.
He has been held in Chester County Prison since his arrest on the charges in 2019. He was returned to the prison following the sentencing and will be given time to file an appeal of the verdict, which he indicated he intends to do.
In making the prosecution’s case for a lengthy sentence, Deputy District Attorney Erin O’Brien, from the D.A.’s Child Abuse Unit, noted the long-term effects that sexual abuse has on young children. Those could include drug abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and similar mental health issues.
“They will have to live with this for the remainder of their lives,” O’Brien said f the two girls, neither of whom attended the proceeding Thursday. “And we can’t say what years of abuse by their father, what impact that will have on them.” His punishment, she suggested, should be comparable to the length of time they will struggle.
O’Brien, in recounting what happened to the younger of the two girls, noted that the man had told her to keep secret what he was doing to her. If she did, he said, “he would go back to prison. She was caught between having her father free and continuing being raped, the prosecutor said.
The man’s attorney, Jonathan Luff Jr. of Paoli, attempted to convince Sommer to temper his sentence so that his client could see some chance that he would eventually be released from prison, asking for a minimum term of 30 years.
“Essentially, he is going to get the time that someone else would get for a murder,” Luff said. “I am asking that you give (him) a chance at a second ending.”
According to the prosecution’s case and a criminal complaint from Coatesville Detective Ryan Wright and Chester County Detective Gerald Davis, the abuse came to light in October 2019 when a staff counselor at King’s Highway Elementary School in West Caln noticed one of her student’s acting uncomfortably and asked how she was doing.
The girl — who was 9 years old at the time — told her that, “My dad’s been touching me inappropriately.”
In a forensic interview that month with Davis, the girl, who is now 11 years old, told how her father would molest her when she would stay overnight at her grandmother’s house in the city. The abuse had been occurring off and on for several years and took places in bedrooms in the house on Lumber Street and on a pull-out sofa.
The girl said that she had told other adults about what had happened, but that nothing had been done, and the abuse continued. Later, investigators also spoke with the girl’s older sister, who confirmed that her father had on one occasion molested her in a family bathroom after she had taken a shower when she was 5 years old.
But the now-12-year-old had told her grandmother about the incident and said that she did not want to see her father again. The abuse stopped and she was cut off from her father and his family.
Although the minimum term the man will have to serve before he would be eligible for parole — 85 years — amounts to a lifetime behind bars, it is not the longest sentence handed down in the county for child sexual abuse. That belongs to a former Phoenixville man who, “perpetrated one of the most egregious and horrific cases of child sexual abuse ever seen in Chester County,” according to District Attorney Deb Ryan, who prosecuted the case. Warren Yerger was sentenced to 339 to 690 years and remains housed at the state prison at Fayette County.
In addition to the prison term he imposed, Sommer said he found the man to be a sexually violent predator. That classification, arrived at after a hearing on the issue, would mean that the man would have to report his whereabouts to neighbors if he was ever released — a possibility that is decidedly remote.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.