WESTMINSTER -- A 54-year-old Taneytown man was sentenced yesterday to 13 years in prison for sexually abusing his stepdaughter when she was a teen-ager, abuse that included intercourse while she was pregnant.
When the stepdaughter's child turned 3, the man began to abuse the child until she was 15.
"While it might be true there may be other ways to punish you than by sending you to jail, the facts surrounding both victims are so bad and over such a long period of time that the only solution I see is to incarcerate," Carroll County Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said as he imposed a 17-year sentence.
Judge Burns immediately suspended four years of the sentence.
The sentence stems from two April 28 convictions in which the man -- whosename is being withheld to protect his stepdaughter and her child -- pleaded guilty to one incest charge and one second-degree sexual offense charge. As a result of a plea agreement with prosecutors, the remaining nine charges against him were dropped.
The stepdaughter's child -- now 18 -- was undergoing therapy last year when she told her therapist of the years of abuse, according to court records. That disclosure triggered an investigation.
The abuse began as fondling, court records show. The man would often wait until his wife was out of the house and would take the stepdaughter's child to his bedroom or to the living room. He began having intercourse with her when she 11 or 12, records say. The abuse spanned a period from 1977 to 1989.
The girl's mother revealed her abuse during the investigation. The stepdaughter told police that between 1971 and 1973, beginning when she was 14, she also was fondled and later was forced to have intercourse.
Court records show that the intercourse occurred after the man knew of his stepdaughter's pregnancy. She was not pregnant with his child, court records show.
At his sentencing hearing yesterday, the man slumped in his chair, barely able to look at his attorney or the judge. When his wife took the stand to ask the judge to spare him from jail, the man looked to the floor.
The stepdaughter was present yesterday, but she did not testify.
The man's attorney, David L. Johnson of Westminster, echoed the argument, saying that putting the defendant behind bars would cause even more hurt to the family. Mr. Johnson stressed the man's previously unblemished criminal record, his 35 years of marriage and his steady employment.
"He has been, from the get-go, remorseful to the extent he is capable of," the attorney said of the longtime Westinghouse Electric Corp. clerk. "Is there any benefit to placing this man in jail?"
Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, who prosecuted the case, gave the judge several reasons to put him in jail.
"The things [the man] did are not the actions of a wonderful human being," she said. The victims "are in their own jail, and they're not getting out any time soon. He molested these girls for a number of years, and I think the Department of Corrections is appropriate for this man who has destroyed two lives."