Berendt sentenced to prison in child-sexual-abuse case

By Peter H. Milliken


A man who pleaded no contest to gross sexual imposition on a 6-year-old girl has been sentenced to three years in prison.

George Berendt, 42, drew the sentence Tuesday from Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Berendt went on trial in November 2008, facing a potential life prison term for purportedly raping the female relative in April of that year in his residence.

Then-Judge Timothy E. Franken, however, declared a mistrial on the second day of the trial, saying Berendt was not being effectively represented by his lawyer, George Kafantaris of Warren, who was permanently disbarred in 2009.

Judge Franken released Berendt, who had been jailed under $200,000 bond, to live with his mother on Russell Avenue and ordered him to have no contact with the accuser and to stay away from Millet Avenue, where the crime reportedly occurred.

An April 2011 mental evaluation found Berendt incompetent to stand trial, and he was placed in a psychiatric hospital for restoration to competency.

Based on another mental evaluation, Judge D’Apolito ruled in February this year that Berendt had been restored to competency.

At the sentencing hearing, Berendt maintained his innocence; but Berendt and his lawyer, Thomas Zena, told the judge Berendt entered his plea to avoid going to trial again and risking a possible life prison term on the original rape charge.

The three-year sentence was agreed upon by the prosecution and defense.

“We do think that three years is a very reasonable period of time, considering what he was facing,” on the original charge, Natasha Frenchko, an assistant county prosecutor, said of the plea agreement.

Berendt will be on probation for five years after he leaves prison. As a convicted sex offender, he must register his whereabouts with the sheriff wherever he lives every six months for 25 years.

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