"It's a heinous crime. You're going to have to come to terms with that."
That's what Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway told defendant Robert E. Shultz during Thursday's sentencing hearing. The Greenwich man pleaded guilty in mid-January to one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He said Thursday he was "completely sorry" for taking up the court's time, but as far as what happened, Shultz claimed he was "still unaware."
"I still love her," he said.
Shultz, 81, of 11 W. Union St., is convicted of inappropriately touching a teenage female relative in November 2012. He was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison -- one year short of the maximum for the third-degree felony.
"I take a serious stance against this," Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said.
Shultz ultimately blamed the victim, Leffler said, but to his credit, he told police "he felt bad" and knew what he did was wrong.
"There is not much good you can say about this," Leffler said. "Apparently you're never too old to make a complete fool of yourself.
"I don't think a five-year prison sentence is warranted here," added Leffler, who recommended two or three years.
The Greenwich Police Department began investigating the case after Richland County Children Services contacted Chief Steve Dorsey in April. The girl reported having sexual conduct with two men, one of whom is a 76-year-old Ashland County suspect. The Richland County Sheriff's Office handled the other case.
"She has been victimized by another elderly man," Leffler said about very serious charges in Richland County. "I think it was considerably more extensive than this incident."
Nova resident James F. Basham Sr. faces multiple sex-related felonies through Richland County Common Pleas Court. According to court records, he is charged with eight counts of rape, four charges of compelling prostitution and three counts of gross sexual imposition. Basham also faces one count of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. His jury trial is April 7.
"She is continuing attending counseling -- as much as two or four times a week," Conway said about the "low functioning" victim who suffered significant physical and psychological harm.
"She is acting out. She is cutting (herself)," added the judge, who said those behaviors are expected to continue for many years.
In November, Officer Aaron Smith testified about a nearly 31-minute-long interview he did with Shultz at the police station April 5 in which he admitted he inappropriately touched the 15-year-old Richland County girl, Shultz's relative. The videotaped interview was shown to the court during a hearing about suppressing evidence.
Conway told Shultz he hasn't taken responsibility for what happened.
"It clearly happened. ... It's not a one-time thing," the judge said. "You threatened the victim if she told (anybody) what happened."
Defense attorney James Joel Sitterly called the circumstances bizarre and said it's highly unlikely something similar would happen again. He also said Shultz's doctor recommended against a prison term since he believes it would aggravate his various health problems.
"It (the crime) was an isolated incident. It occurred around November 2012," Sitterly said.
"This is someone who has had a very positive impact on everyone around him," he said. "There is no criminal behavior. There is nothing to report in my client's past."
Two family members and a long-time friend spoke passionately about Shultz's character Thursday.
Bill Rowe has known Shultz since 1967. Rowe called the defendant "an exemplary person" who has helped his 44 employees personally and professionally.
"I'm proud to have had this relationship that stood the test of time," Rowe said.
Shultz's granddaughter, who is a teacher in South Dakota, wrote a letter that Shultz's wife read to the judge. She said it's difficult to fathom how this situation happened and she never felt uncomfortable around him.
"I've never questioned his love or his intentions," the granddaughter wrote in the letter. "I always felt safe around him."
Another granddaughter who was in court Thursday said Shultz made every effort to stay in touch with her even though they lived far apart.
"In the 25 years I've known him, he's been nothing but a kind and gentle person," she said. "If you sentence him to prison, you might as well dig his grave."
Shultz, who was fined $5,000, put his forehead on a hand that rested on the table before him as the judge announced his sentence. The defendant appeared to cry quietly several times as Rowe, his wife and granddaughter spoke. Conway took a recess for Shultz to complete the Tier II sex offender registration form and so the defendant could collect himself.
Once he is released from prison, Shultz will be on five years of parole. He will have to register his address with the sheriff's office every six months for the next 25 years and is prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or daycare center.