GREENVILLE — More than a dozen witnesses looked on as a man was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of sexual battery, a second-degree felony, in Darke County Common Pleas Court Thursday. Judge Jonathan P. Hein presided.
Zachary Baker, 23, pleaded not guilty to a charge of rape at his initial court appearance in May of this year. That charge would have carried a sentence of 15 years to life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole. Baker entered a guilty plea to the lesser charge of sexual battery in October, in accordance with a plea agreement with the Darke County Prosecutor’s Office.
In keeping with that agreement, Prosecutor R. Kelly Ormsby recommended a 15-year sentence for the defendant.
“This is obviously an extremely serious case of sexual abuse,” Ormsby told the court. “We spoke to the family of the victim to find out if they were insistent on a life term. The family was of a mind, which I agreed with, that a 30 or 40 or 50-year sentence was not called for.”
Baker, who graduated from Ansonia High School in 2013, admitted to engaging in sexual activity with a female relative from the time he was 16 and she was 7 years old. He was caught in the act by the now 14-year-old victim’s mother earlier this year.
Ormsby stressed the seriousness of the charges, citing the victim’s young age at the time the abuse began.
“There’s no doubt that this can cause serious physical and psychological harm,” Ormsby said. “And his relationship with the victim facilitated that harm. She trusted him, and he had access to her because of the family relationship.”
Ormsby also accused the defendant of blaming the victim by making statements that indicated she was complicit in the abuse.
“It’s a tragic case,” Ormsby said. “I don’t think anybody wishes that this type of thing would happen.”
Neither Baker nor his attorney chose to make any comment with regards to sentencing. The victim and her family also declined to make a statement.
“Mr. Ormsby is spot-on. There’s nothing less serious about this crime,” Judge Hein said before pronouncing sentence. “It’s illegal, it’s immoral, and let’s just say it: it’s disgusting.”
Hein cited the defendant’s admission of the abuse and subsequent cooperation with authorities, however, in explaining why he declined to impose the maximum sentence.
“We see a lot of cases similar to this where the defendant is not as cooperative, and the district attorney is forced to offer a shorter sentence,” Hein said. “The distinguishing factor here is his cooperation, and it doesn’t make sense to punish him for that.”
In addition to the eight-year prison term, Baker must submit to mandatory post-release supervision for five years. He must also register quarterly as a Tier III sex offender, reporting any addresses where he resides, is employed or attends school with the appropriate sheriff’s office for the remainder of his life.