The mother of a 12-year-old girl held back tears throughout a Wednesday hearing in Washington County Common Pleas Court as a New Matamoras man pleaded guilty to exchanging lewd photographs and having a sexual relationship with the girl.
Richard L. Newlen, 29, of 317 Hutchinson Road, pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony charge of gross sexual imposition and a fifth-degree felony charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
Newlen was arrested June 28 after the girl's mother learned he had inappropriately touched her daughter and contacted the police, said Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Kevin Rings.
Richard Newlen, left, stands with attorney Rolf Baumgartel and pleads guilty Wednesday in Washington County Common Pleas Court to a third-degree felony count of gross sexual imposition and a fifth-degree felony count of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
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"Through the course of the investigation we learned the defendant had started a relationship with the child a few months before and had provided her with a cell phone," said Rings.
Newlen had been using the phone to exchange nude photographs with the young girl. They also exchanged explicit text messages that indicated Newlen and the girl had engaged in a sexual relationship.
Newlen also aroused suspicion when his adult girlfriend asked to look at his phone and he refused.
In one of the messages, which Rings read from a transcript, Newlen told the young victim that he only wanted to have sex with her and not with his adult girlfriend.
Newlen's expression remained stoic as Rings read a transcript of some of the messages.
However, the girl's mother broke down into sobs.
The messages support the rape charge which Newlen initially faced, said Rings.
However, Newlen was allowed to plead guilty to the lesser gross sexual imposition charge in order to save the victim from having to testify, he said.
"Upon the plea we will not file any additional charges with regard to this victim although other charges may have been available to us," he said.
Rings said the mother, who did not wish to make a comment, was in favor of the resolution.
Newlen faces a maximum of five years in prison on the third-degree felony and a year in prison on the fifth-degree felony charges.
He also will be required to register as a tier 2 sex offender which has mandatory reporting every six months for 25 years.
Newlen's attorney Rolf Baumgartel also requested that Newlen's bond be reduced since he was no longer being held on the first-degree felony rape charge for which he was initially charged.
His bond was previously set at $255,000.
Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth agreed to reduce Newlen's bond to $25,000 in light of the charges to which he pleaded.
However, should Newlen not show up for his Sept. 24 sentencing, the plea deal will be nullified and the prosecution will be able to bring additional charges against Newlen.