A Newark man was sentenced to more than six months in prison Tuesday, although he took a roundabout path to prison for crimes that began in 1998.
"It was a strange way to get there, but the end result is he's a sex offender and he's going to prison," said Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
James G. Harris, 33, was sentenced to six months in prison on a felony charge of breach of recognizance and 60 days in prison on a misdemeanor charge of sexual imposition by Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane Tuesday morning.
Newark resident James Harris, left, looks to attorney Ray Smith for guidance during a sentencing in Judge Ed Lane’s courtroom Tuesday morning. Harris was sentenced to six months in prison and must register as a sex offender in a case.
The Marietta Times
He was also classified as a Tier 1 sex offender with reporting requirements for 15 years.
Under Ohio Revised Code, Harris had faced a maximum of 18 months, 60 days in prison. He received the maximum penalty of 60 days for the sexual imposition charge.
Harris made one brief statement to the court, expressing remorse for his actions.
"I am sorry. I do understand the consequences now," Harris said. "I've been in jail since February. I am truly sorry."
In April 2011, Harris was indicted on a third-degree felony charge of gross sexual imposition for fondling a 4-year-old girl at a shared family home in Lowell in 1998 and 1999. No investigation resulted until the fall of 2010 when Washington County Children Services representatives became involved.
The mother of the victim stated she had called Children Services in 1999, but no record of the report was found and the case was not prosecuted until 13 years after the fact.
Harris was scheduled for trial on Jan. 10 on the gross sexual imposition charge, but failed to appear for the trial.
That prompted the charge of breach of recognizance, essentially guaranteeing Harris prison time. By that act, Rings was able to bump the original third-degree felony gross sexual imposition charge to a third-degree misdemeanor, keeping the victim from having to testify while still getting a prison sentence and registration as a sex offender.
"The mother wanted to keep the child from having to come to court," Rings said.
Harris has been a resident of the Washington County Jail since February, when he was arrested on the breach of recognizance charge.
Washington County Public Defender Ray Smith, Harris' attorney, said his client did not appear for the trial due to transportation issues, as he had a license suspension.
That explanation did not satisfy Lane, who noted it was six weeks after the scheduled trial that Harris was arrested.
"You could've walked in that time, or taken a bus," Lane said.
Smith asked for community control and credit for time served by Harris after he was arrested in February. Harris was give credit for his 96 days in jail.
He also noted that Harris has suffered hardship as a result of the case. Harris is currently homeless, though he plans to reside at 283 E. Main St., Newark, upon his release.
"His girlfriend has left him as a result of this case," Smith explained.
Harris pleaded guilty to the charges of breach of recognizance and sexual imposition on March 26. Prior to that time he had said he was applying lotion to the girl for a rash.