Man gets 1-year term for sexual child abuse Both he and the victim, now an adult, attempted suicide

September 16, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

A 48-year-old former Boy Scout leader was sentenced yesterday to three years in jail for sexually molesting a family friend's daughter.

Joseph George Bahner, 48, of the 2600 block of Neudecker Road, had pleaded guilty in April to one count of child abuse in exchange for prosecutors dropping 12 related charges.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. suspended all but one year of the sentence and committed him to the county detention center.

"The one word that keeps coming to my mind is 'trust,' " Judge Burns said. "In the relationship between the two families, the relationship between the child and the two families, that trust was broken."

Bahner will be allowed to meet once a week with his therapist, H. Martin Melin, Judge Burns said. The court is still considering whether to allow Bahner work-release privileges.

"This is a tough case, tougher than most," said Bahner's attorney, J. Barry Hughes, after the sentencing. "There are no winners in this case, only losers."

Court records show that the abuse, which began with fondling and included other sex acts, occurred from about 1978 to 1984 when the victim was between 7 and 13 years old. Bahner cared for the child while his wife and the victim's mother were at work. The victim told police of the abuse in the summer of 1992.

Dr. Melin, a Baltimore sexologist, told Judge Burns yesterday that his sessions with Bahner were "reasonably turbulent," but the defendant is not a pedophile and his prognosis for recovery is good.

Bahner, who was a Scout leader when he was arrested on the charges, has not abused any members of his troop or any other child, the doctor said, and other factors in his life -- such as marital difficulties -- could have caused the stormy therapy sessions.

"He cared very much for the child [the victim] and doesn't know why he hurt her," Dr. Melin said. "I feel he just got too close and didn't know where to draw the line. He acted in a totally inappropriate way."

Dr. Melin and Mr. Hughes recommended that the defendant receive no jail time.

Dr. Melin said, "He has said he would rather kill himself than go to jail, and that if he did go to jail he wouldn't survive it."

Court records show Bahner attempted suicide shortly before his guilty plea.

"Mr. Bahner has been punished," said Mr. Hughes, pointing to the defendant's failed marriage, his public disgrace and the possibility that he will lose his job.

"His life, as he's known it to date, is over. He has been there for others and now he's the one who needs help."

Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerny said the court should consider how the victim has suffered and Bahner's seeming lack of remorse.

Ms. McInerny said that the agent who evaluated Mr. Bahner during the presentencing investigation said the defendant described the victim as "a curious little girl who even seemed to invite his interest in her."

"As late as June, he is still blaming [the victim]," said Ms. McInerny, her voice shaking. "I find that offensive, and how dare he?"

The victim, now a 22-year-old college student, had planned to attend the sentencing. However, Ms. McInerny said, she was hospitalized after a suicide attempt Sunday night.

"There is no question in my mind that he [Bahner] needs help," Judge Burns said. "But the victim needs as much help, if not more help."

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