MARIETTA - Family members of a child sexually abused by a Marietta man said the three-year prison sentence he was given Wednesday is not long enough.
Aaron E. Harter, 33, of 313 Van Bergen Ave., was sentenced in Washington County Common Pleas Court Wednesday on one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony.
Harter was arrested in August after a 13-year-old girl called her mother immediately following an incident of sexual abuse. The girl's 15-year-old sister then came forward and said Harter had been abusing her for more than six years.
Aaron E. Harter
According to the August arrest affidavit, Harter became involved in that phone call. He did not deny the allegations, but rather apologized to the girls' mother.
Harter was initially indicted on two third-degree felony counts of gross sexual imposition, one third-degree felony counts of sexual battery and one third-degree misdemeanor count of sexual imposition. Those counts involved both girls.
He pleaded Nov. 1 to one third-degree felony count of sexual battery against one of the girls.
"What gives them the right to strike a plea deal with this a---, and not even tell the family?" asked the uncle of the girls after sentencing.
However, Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider said the girls' mother was kept abreast of proceedings throughout the process.
"She was pretty insistent that she didn't want her daughters to testify. I told her this will keep your daughters from testifying but he's not going to get as much prison time," said Schneider of the agreement.
Preceding sentencing, Harter's attorney, Joe Brockwell, asked for leniency, citing Harter's pre-sentence investigation report.
"The PSI places Mr. Harter in a low risk category," said Brockwell.
Although Harter has no previous adult or juvenile convictions, Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Susan Boyer expressed concern that Harter denied the allegations during his pre-sentence investigation interview.
"The defendant sent the court a letter expressing remorse; however, in the PSI he denied the events occurred at all, which indicates to me a lack of remorse," said Boyer.
Boyer also noted that Harter had a history of sexual abuse and a childhood suicide attempt.
Harter's 36-month sentence was two years short of the maximum possible prison sentence for third-degree felony sexual offenders, said Schneider.
Harter will also be required to register as a Tier III sex offender, which requires quarterly reporting for the rest of his life.
Harter and the alleged victims have only lived in Washington County since January 2010. Prior to that, Harter and the victims resided in Meigs County, where the abuse reportedly began. The Meigs County Prosecutor's Office is still pursuing charges against Harter there, though he has not yet been indicted, said Meigs County Prosecutor Colleen Williams.
The next round of grand jury indictments in Meigs County is Dec. 18, though it is not guaranteed Harter will be indicted then, she added.
It also is not clear exactly what charges he will face.
"I know they are going to be some type of sexual assault charges," she said.
Harter, who chose to not make a statement in court, has been incarcerated since his arrest and will receive credit for 121 days served, said Boyer.