A Warren man has been ruled a sexually violent predator and is facing a minimum of nearly twenty years in prison following a hearing Friday afternoon.
Judge Maureen Skerda presided over a hearing to determine whether Joseph Robert White, 39, 229 Pennsylvania Ave. W., Apt. 3, met the legal definition of a sexually violent predator.
White was sentenced subsequently on charges he was found guilty of in a jury trial on Sept. 10.
The hearing began with testimony from Molly Wagner, a licensed clinical social worker with the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board.
Wagner said she completed an evaluation for White on Dec. 4 of last year, nearly three months after his jury trial.
"Mr. White elected not to participate in an interview," Wagner noted. "Limiting me to the available documents."
Wagner attested documents indicated White sexually molested a nine year-old child over a period of seven months. Specifically, that he fondled her breasts and genitals, digitally penetrated her vagina and performed cunnilingus on her.
Further, she attested that White had admitted to sexual acts with the child during criminal investigations and that the child's mother claimed he had attempted to bribe her with $50 to keep her from reporting the crimes.
"She later decided that was not sufficient and went to the police," Wagner said.
Wagner testified that her report supports a diagnosis of pedophilia.
"She would have been considered pre-pubescent... which would indicate pedophilia," she noted. "Which is an abnormality."
Wagner attested documents showed White had threatened the child to ensure his actions were not brought to light.
"Mr. White threatened... he would murder the child if she didn't keep it a secret," Wagner noted.
Wagner also noted the age of the victim in relation to White was also a factor in her determination.
"The age difference is significant to the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia," she said. "Which is a lifetime condition. It's not something that will go away with treatment."
At the time of the offense, White was 36.
Wagner also attested White, in her opinion, did meet the criteria as a predator.
"He augmented his... role," she said, referring to White's existing relationship to the child, whom he knew. "Created a secondary relationship that was sexual in nature... He protected that relationship by threatening the victim."
Wagner summed up saying, "It is this board member's opinion... Mr. White does meet the criteria to be certified a sexually violent predator."
In cross-examination White's attorney, Warren County Public Defender Alan Conn asked Wagner, "Mr. White does not have any prior sexual offenses, correct?"
Wagner responded in the affirmative.
"Is there any indication he maintained the relationship just to assault the child?" Conn asked.
"There's occasions where he sought out the child and separated her from the other children in order to be alone with her," she said.
Conn then called a witness for the defense, Steven J. Reilly, a licensed psychologist out of Erie who also serves as chief psychologist at State Correctional Institution Albion.
Reilly conducted an evaluation of White on Jan. 4.
In addition to the sexual offenders assessment board report, and another partial report from the board by board member Brenda Manno which was done prior to the trial, Reilly conducted a Static-99 assessment and a Minnesota Sexual Offender Screening Tool evaluation.
"While the offender meets the D.S. guide," Reilly said, referring to the diagnostic screening guide used by the sexual offenders assessment board. "It was not my opinion that Mr. White was a pedophile... Because of the low risk findings in the measures that we use... I don't know the risk of re-offending... While I think that both reports are outstanding... I am not convinced of the findings."
Reilly admitted White meets the guidelines as a pedophile, but said he had reservations regarding the diagnosis.
"At the end of the day, my finding is that, although he meets the diagnostic criteria... I'm not convinced he is a pedophile," Reilly said. "Pedophilia is a lifetime condition... the research I have been exposed to and the offenders I have worked with... It is a lifelong condition... We don't want to over diagnose... that diagnosis should be deferred (until further treatment)."
Reilly said he didn't disagree with any of the sexual offender assessment board findings, only the conclusion.
Prior to issuing the courts ruling on White's status as a sexually violent predator, Skerda noted, "Mr. Reilly noted that he may not agree with the criterion, but he (white) did meet the criterion set forth in the law."
Skerda then ruled White to be a sexually violent predator.
"Based on the findings presented and the testimony," she said. "The court finds that Mr. White's condition meets the criteria under the act to qualify as a sexually violent predator. Note the act does not require violence as a precondition."
Sexually violent predator recommendations are made based on a 14-point evaluation. The state sexual offenders assessment board makes recommendations on the sexual offenders possible status as sexually violent predators based on criterion set out by law. A court must rule on the status. A sexually violent predator designation carries with it a lifetime Megan's Law registration requirement.
White was sentenced to between 150 and 300 months incarceration in a state correctional institution, to undergo sexual offender treatment , submit a DNA sample and pay $2,075 in fines and costs for a count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child. A charge of aggravated indecent assault - complainant less than 13 years old and a charge of indecent assault - complainant less than 13 years of age merged for sentencing purposes and resulted in an additional sentence of between 60 and 120 months incarceration in a state correctional institution. An additional charge resulted in a consecutive sentence of between 20 and 40 months incarceration is a state correctional institution, an order to undergo a mental health evaluation and to have no contact with the victim without prior consent of her therapist.
In total White was sentenced to between 230 and 460 months incarceration in a state correctional institution, to undergo sexual offender treatment and a mental health evaluation, to pay $2,075 in fines and costs, to have no contact with his victim without consent of a therapist. He is not boot camp or recidivism risk reduction incentive program eligible. He is considered a lifetime Megan's Law registrant.