Lawrence Plante said his problems were rooted in addiction to pornography.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A 47-year-old Struthers man who took pictures of himself wearing women's underpants and a high school cheerleading uniform is going to prison for eight years.
The problem is that the garments belonged to his neighbors' teen daughter, and he broke into their house to get them.
"If I read this in a novel, I wouldn't believe it," said Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court moments before he imposed the sentence on Lawrence Plante of Brandon Avenue.
Plante pleaded guilty in June to charges including pandering obscenity involving a minor, illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and burglary.
He was declared a sexual predator, meaning he will have to register with the sheriff's department wherever he lives for the rest of his life after his release from prison.
Internet porn: At his hearing, Plante told Judge Durkin that he became addicted to Internet pornography, which "fed [his] fetishes and fantasies to the point that it just took over."
Plante had amassed a collection of more than 20,000 explicit child pornography photographs on his home computer, according to Timothy Franken, assistant prosecutor.
He also developed a fixation on the neighbor girl, often following her around and taking photographs of her without her knowledge, Franken said. Plante superimposed the girl's face on the nude body of another woman and posted the picture on a Web site.
He said Plante broke into the neighbors' house while they were not home and took pictures of himself wearing the girl's underpants and cheerleading uniform.
Plante also sent lewd e-mail to the girl, who ignored it at first but later informed authorities when it became more graphic.
"The scary thing is that he took it outside his home," Franken said. "He stalked this girl."
About the sentence: Franken said prosecutors were disappointed that Judge Durkin did not follow their recommendation to impose a 10-year sentence.
But the judge said eight years was appropriate because Plante accepted responsibility for his actions and had no prior criminal record. He said the victim's family was also satisfied with the result.
Defense attorney John F. Shultz said Plante is not a criminal, but a man who needs help to overcome his addictions. He also was upset that the prosecutor's office recommended a 10-year sentence after earlier offering a three- or four-year term.
Prosecutor Paul Gains has said the deal changed because, after further investigation, authorities found more information that warranted the longer sentence.
Judge Durkin said that at one point, prosecutors offered Plante a deal that would have resulted in only a 15-month sentence.
"I told them that was absurd," the judge said, noting he would not have approved such a deal.