By JOE GORMAN
A man being sentenced Thursday after being convicted of two counts of rape and 20 counts of gross sexual imposition told Judge James C. Evans he still doesn’t understand what happened to him.
Willie Parker, 51, of Akron was convicted by a jury Aug. 26 in Judge Evans’ courtroom in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for a series of attacks against a girl, who was 13 and a family friend, from September 1999 to September 2001.
Parker told Judge Evans before he was sentenced to 111/2 years in prison that he was innocent.
“I can’t understand why they would bring up a charge against me for something I didn’t do,” Parker said.
The victim read a statement to Judge Evans, saying that Parker betrayed her trust. She said his actions have clouded her relationships with men, and for a long time she blamed herself for what happened. She said she came forward after she went to counseling, and she expects to go to counseling for the rest of her life.
“I felt like less of a person,” the victim said. “I live with the trauma of what he did to me every day.”
She went to police in 2012, which is when Parker was indicted.
Three family members spoke on Parker’s behalf, asking for mercy, saying that Parker is a person who always helps others and works hard. They said he is not the type of person depicted in his trial.
“This is not the brother I was raised with,” said his brother, Joe Parker. “He is a very kind person, very dependable, a hard worker. He’s never been in trouble with the law in his life.”
Willie Parker said he respects everyone and taught his children the same thing. He recounted the years he was a single father and said he would never think of touching anyone else’s children.
Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa said after court that Parker had confessed to police, but the confession was thrown out by Judge Evans because he ruled police acted improperly when taking it. Judge Evans ruled that Parker was improperly coerced by a police officer while he was interviewed.
Judge Evans said that he received more letters on Parker’s behalf than just about any other person before him in the past 15 years. He said he believes Parker is a changed man from the time of the offenses but that does not excuse his criminal behavior or the pain he inflicted on the victim.
“Change does not excuse criminal acts from the past,” Judge Evans said.
Afterward, the victim said she was fine with the sentence.
Parker could have received 47 years in prison.