By John W. GOODWIN JR.
A North Jackson family says they have felt like prisoners in their own home, but they now will get a four-year reprieve as the man convicted of inappropriately touching their daughter was led away in handcuffs.
John Hartman, 75, of New Road, appeared Tuesday before Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for sentencing on a charge of gross sexual imposition involving an 8-year-old girl.
Hartman pleaded guilty to the charge in a plea agreement with prosecutors in early October.
The girl’s mother said Hartman, who lives next door to the family, earlier this year offered her daughter cookies, had the young child sit on his lap and told her she would someday be a pretty girl as he reached into her pants.
Hartman entered the plea agreement after failing a polygraph test associated with the charges.
Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor, recommended a four-year sentence for Hartman in exchange for his guilty plea. Hartman earlier said medical conditions would make prison difficult, but Frenchko presented to the court evidence of Hartman bowling, farming and operating heavy equipment.
The girl’s father also told the court he had witnessed Hartman performing demanding tasks, and any medical condition should not prevent him from going to prison.
He added the family has not been able to live a normal life and want Hartman out of the neighborhood as long as possible.
“We want the maximum sentence imposed, and we don’t want early release. We live 80 feet from his house. The only way we can live in peace is with him behind bars,” the father said.
The child’s mother said her children do not go outside to play when Hartman, who had been free on bond, is out in his yard, and her daughter lives in constant fear that Hartman will do her physical harm. She said it is like living as a prisoner in your own home.
“This has affected my daughter in many ways, and I don’t know how this will affect her as she matures into a woman,” the mother said. “I periodically check and ask if she is feeling sad just to keep that open line of communication. The only thing she wants is to move.”
Hartman apologized to the family and the court, saying he pleaded guilty to spare the young victim from having to come to court and testify. Still, he says he did not inappropriately touch the girl.
Judge Durkin reminded Hartman about the failed polygraph test and the fact that he only pleaded guilty after failing the test. He said the court absolutely believes Hartman had inappropriate contact with the girl.
“I can’t imagine a case where we don’t protect our children. If we don’t do it, who will?” the judge said.
Durkin sentenced Hartman to four years in prison and five years’ probation upon his release and ordered the man to register as a sex offender.
The child’s mother warns other families with young kids to be cautious even of people they think may be safe. She said Hartman had been like a member of the family until the incident with her daughter.
“There was never a shadow of a doubt about her or any of my kids’ safety with this man. This just makes you ill,” she said.