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Columbiana County resident heads to prison for sex sting role

YOUNGSTOWN — An assistant prosecutor said she wanted Jeffrey Hetherington, 22, of Wellsville to go to prison for two years for soliciting sex from what he thought was a 14-year-old girl and sending a nude photo of himself.

It turns out the girl was a police officer posing as a young girl. Hetherington was among 17 men who were charged as a result of the most recent sting operation carried out by law enforcement.

Hetherington was not named at the time of the sting operation because he did not go to the meeting place like the other men charged, so his charges came later.

The operation targeted predators seeking to sexually exploit children and was carried out by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office in May.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin told Judge John Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court she didn’t expect prison time to stop Hetherington from committing future crimes.

“Will it fix him? No, but it will protect children for two years,” McLaughlin said before sentencing. One reason for McLaughlin’s assessment is that Hetherington was convicted of raping a child when Hetherington was 12.

McLaughlin said the only positive in this case is that Hetherington was communicating with a police officer and not an actual young girl.

“The reason I did it, I can’t tell you,” Hetherington told Judge Durkin. “I can’t make excuses for my actions.”

As Hetherington stoood before Judge Durkin, Hetherington’s attorney, Walter Ritchie, said his client has been diagnosed with impulse control issues, manic depression and has substance abuse issues. He has been in the county jail for six months and gets credit for 174 days in jail.

Judge Durkin agreed to give Hetherington two years in prison. Hetherington pleaded guilty to importuning, disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile and attempted unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.