A Warren man was deemed a sexually violent predator and sentenced to at least 27 months in state prison before President Judge Maureen Skerda on Friday morning.
Shawn L. Yeagle, 11 Carpenter Street, pled guilty to a felony count of statutory assault and a misdemeanor account of luring a child into a vehicle in May. The second charge triggered a sexually violent predator assessment through the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB).
Brenda Manno, appointed to the SOAB by Governor Tom Ridge in 1998, examined the SVP criteria in this case and testified on behalf of the prosecution.
While he refused an interview with Manno, Yeagle allegedly engaged in sexual contact over a three year period from 2008 until 2011 with the daughter of his paramour, according to her testimony. During the time, Yeagle allegedly participated in a variety of sexual acts with the then 12 to 15 year old. Manno testified that Yeagle would present his victim with cigarettes and pornographic materials, as well as sing songs to her and wake her up in the middle of the night when the victim's mother was not in the home in order to initiate sexual contact. These incidents were alleged to have occurred two to three times a month.
Manno indicated that "he does meet the criteria" to be designated a sexually violent predator. She based her assessment on a diagnosis of paraphilia, primarily derived due to the criteria that require the abuse to be evidenced by a continued pattern of behavior of at least six months as well as a determination that Yeagle maintained the relationship with the victim's mother "in part" to facilitate the sexual relationship with the victim.
J. Timothy George, Yeagle's defense attorney, took exception with the diagnosis. While the charge of statutory assault included that the contact occurred between 2008 and 20011, he noted that the charge does not contain any statement that indicates that sexual contact occurred more than once. He contended that the diagnosis would be incorrect without certainty that contact occurred more than once as a qualifier on the diagnosis is a repeated course of behavior over a six month period.
In Yeagle's defense, Dr. Robert Wettstein testified that he has evaluated the situation, including an interview with Mr. Yeagle, and concluded that Yeagle should not be classified as a SVP because of ambiguity regarding whether the behavior occurred over a six month window or was just a one time incident.
Wettstein argued in his testimony that Yeagle has a relatively low chance for re-offending because "child molesters have lower recidivism rates than people realize." While he acknowledged that "certainly there was a sexual relationship that occurred over time," he also stated that one sexual offense on a single day is not sufficient information to make a diagnosis, reiterating the importance of the behavior occurring consistently over time.
Prosecuting Attorney Barry Klenowski asked Wettstein if he asked Yeagle if sexual contact occurred more than once with the victim. Wettstein indicated that he had. Klenowski asked Wettstein if that information was included in his report and Wettstein indicated that it was not.
In her ruling on the SVP classification, Skerda acknowledged that Yeagle had been convicted of prior sexual offenses, indecent assault and corruption of minors, in 2006. The victim in that case was of a similar age. She said that Yeagle had committed illegal acts in spite of sexual offender treatment he participated in after his first conviction.
Skerda affirmed the diagnosis of paraphilia and said that "regardless of the treatment, the behaviors have continued." She indicated that there was "overwhelming evidence" that Yeagle offended his victim over time and continued the relationship with the victim's mother in part to facilitate the abuse, declaring him a sexually violent predator.
On the statutory assault charge, Yeagle was sentenced to 15-60 months in a state correctional institution and ordered to pay the costs of prosecution, a $200 fee, a $1,000 fine, submit to a DNA sample, and participate in sexual offenders counseling which must be completed before his release. He was also sentenced to two years of state probation following his incarceration.
The count of luring a child into a motor levies an additional 12 to 24 months of incarceration to be served consecutively with his prior sentence. The conviction also makes him a lifetime Megan's Law sexual offender. He was ordered to have no contact with his victim.
Skerda reiterated that Yeagele's minimum sentence is 27 months with the far end at 84.
Yeagle, who was committed immediately following the proceeding, told the court that "I made a mistake (and) hurt several people. I'm sorry for what I've done."
"Both victims were about 13 years old...(it is) apparent to this court there is some type of inability to get it," referring to an understanding that should have been obtained through sexual offenders therapy, Skerda said. She cited that he has a multiple-incident criminal history in addition to his prior sexual offense conviction. "You are a Megan's Law offender at this point," she said.