POMEROY — A repeat sex offender could spend the rest of his life behind bars after being sentenced on Monday in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
John W. Hess Jr., 53, of Pomeroy, was found guilty in September of two counts of gross sexual imposition and one county of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He was found not guilty of three counts of rape.
Judge Linda Warner sentenced Hess to the maximum possible prison sentence during Monday’s hearing. He was sentenced to five years to life on each of the gross sexual imposition charges and one year on the disseminating matter harmful to juveniles charge.
Hess Jr., was alleged to have sexually assaulted a minor female, who is under the age of 13, on three separate occasions, as well as allegedly showing her pornography on one occasion.
This was not the first time Hess has been convicted of sexual offenses, having previously been convicted or having pleaded guilty to charges of gross sexual imposition in 1991 and 2009.
Given his previous offenses, the grand jury indictment included a sexually violent predator specification, which increased the possible sentence on the gross sexual imposition charges.
Judge Linda Warner ruled on Friday regarding the sexually violent predator specification after testimony during a hearing was held on Wednesday.
During the hearing three females testified that Hess had also allegedly committed sexual acts with them when they were minors, although the alleged acts were never reported or charged.
Both defense attorney Britt Wiseman and Prosecutor James K. Stanley were to submit closing arguments in writing on Thursday, with Warner issuing the ruling on Friday.
“The Defendant committed sexually violent acts against the victim in this case in 2013 and the Court finds that he is likely to engage in at least one or more sexually violent offense in the future. Therefore, defendant is found to be a sexually violent predator,” read the entry by Warner.
With the ruling in place, sentencing arguments were held on Monday afternoon.
Prosecutor Stanley argued that Hess should receive the maximum possible sentence, with the sentences to run consecutive to one another. Stanley argued that the sentence was necessary to protect the public and to punish the offender.
Stanley said that Hess has shown a pattern of offenses against children, and that he was out of prison on judicial release for less than six months at the time of the offenses in the current case.
He added that Hess has shown no remorse for the actions which caused serious psychological harm to the victim in the case.
The mother of the juvenile victim also addressed the court, stating “You can not put a price on this crime. He has done this for years.”
She added that the actions of Hess have torn their family apart.
“God says you have to forgive, but I will never forget,” added the mother. She asked that Hess receive the maximum sentence.
Defense Attorney Britt Wiseman stated that while the defense disagrees with the conclusion of the case, they appreciate and understand where the prosecution and court are coming from.
Wiseman added that Hess has continued to inform him that he did not commit the crimes and denies that it happened.
Wiseman asked that Hess be sentenced to the minimum possible, as well as concurrent sentences, noting that the sentence would require a possible life sentence.
Judge Warner sentenced Hess to the maximum possible sentence of five years to life on each of the gross sexual imposition counts, as well as one year on the disseminating matter harmful to juveniles charge.
Warner stated that there were factors making the offenses more serious when it comes to sentencing, and that there were no factors which would have made it less serious in nature. She added that at the time of the offenses Hess was on community control out of another county, with some of the terms of that community control to include that he was not to be alone with children or have pornography, both of which the convictions state he violated.
Warner spoke to the bravery of the victim in the case and standing up to Hess, including testifying in the case.
Hess must also register as a Tier III sex offender and a violent offender.
Wiseman told the court Hess plans to appeal.
Hess was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office to be transported to begin his sentence.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.