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Judge renounces sex offender’s plea for shorter sentence

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Steven Little II, left, stands with his attorney, Ross Smith, during Little’s sentencing hearing Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for having sex with a girl, 15, in 2013.

YOUNGSTOWN — A man who had sex with a 15-year-old girl living in the house where he was staying in Struthers in 2013 tried to convince Judge Anthony D’Apolito to give him less than two years in prison.

In the end, Judge Anthony D’Apolito gave Steven Little II, 41, two years.

Little pleaded guilty earlier to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. Jennifer McLaughlin, assistant county prosecutor, told the judge she recommended two years.

Little’s attorney, Ross Smith, told the judge the sex with the Struthers girl was consensual.

At the time Little was indicted in the Struthers case in 2017, he was serving a five-year prison sentence in Indiana for a similar sexual assault of another 15-year-old girl, McLaughlin said.

Little was staying in the basement of the victim’s aunt’s house in Struthers, McLaughlin said. He was in his 30s at the time.

“This is truly a grown man taking advantage of a girl, who was at that time probably a freshman in high school,” McLaughlin said. The Vindicator typically does not name victims of sexual assault.

The victim did not attend the hearing but told McLaughlin she wanted Little to have to register as a sex offender and spend some time incarcerated. Part of Little’s conviction is a requirement to register as a sex offender.

Little said: “I was the adult, and I should have known better. I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I wasn’t the person I am today.”

Little also argued that he had “already done more than that two years for this crime alone, no other reason. For this crime I have done above and beyond two years.”

He read from a prepared statement that he served two years in prison in Indiana and was less than eight months away from being released from prison when the Struthers case came to light.

He said McLaughlin told the judge only about Little’s past, but not about his present — which includes a 14-year-old daughter who told him she looks forward to him coming home.

“She told you about the old me and the worst me,” he said. “Every single day I get on my hands and knees, I thank God that the old me is gone. What the prosecutor is not going to tell you is all of the changes I have made over the last 5 1/2 years.”

Then the judge said Little — of all people — should understand the harm of his conduct.

“It should be very apparent to you how wrong it was,” the judge said. “Simply think of your 14-year-old daughter, and in one year for someone like you to have sex with her. That just sums it up,” the judge said.

“It was wrong from the start. It was wrong before it started. It’s just as wrong today, and it will be even just as wrong tomorrow,” D’Apolito said.

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