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Spalding sentenced to five years in prison

December 05, 2000

Spalding sentenced to five years in prison



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Former Hagerstown City Councilman Steven Kenneth Spalding was sentenced to serve five years in prison Tuesday for sexually exploiting a girl he first met on the Internet when she was 11.

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Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone, who took Spalding's guilty plea to third-degree sex offense in July, imposed the maximum sentence of 10 years but suspended five of those years.

"(The girl) is a child of tender years ... we have laws to protect these children," Boone said.

Calling Spalding a manipulative liar, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Susan Lochbaum sought the maximum 10-year sentence.

"He continues to minimize his behavior," Lochbaum said. "And he continues to be a danger to any child with a computer."

After the 90-minute sentencing hearing, Lochbaum said she was satisfied with the outcome and the five-year sentence.

"The judge listened to what everyone had to say," Lochbaum said.

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The victim, now 14, has undergone extensive counseling, changed schools, made new friends and her grades are beginning to improve, according to her mother, who spoke at Tuesday's sentencing.

"Justice was done today," the mother said after the sentencing outside the courtroom. "A lot of damage was done to our daughter and to all of us but hopefully, she will be able to trust again in time."

The girl's father said in court he was frustrated by the fact that he couldn't protect his daughter from Spalding.

"You bring your kids up the best way you can," the father told Boone. "But no kid is safe ... they can't use TV or the Internet or the computer. This shouldn't have happened to me or to anyone."

The father looked directly at Spalding as he spoke.

"What he gets today is temporary ... ours is for life," the father said, admitting he's still angry. "I just want justice."

Fighting back tears, Spalding apologized to his mother, his wife and children and other family members and friends. He then expressed his remorse to the victim and her family.

"She gave me her friendship and her trust and I failed her," Spalding said of the victim.

In July, Spalding, 46, opted to go directly to the Washington County Detention Center to await the results of a pre-sentence investigation ordered by Boone.

Defense attorney Bruce Poole asked Tuesday that Spalding be sentenced to time served, or about six months, because of his prior spotless record and years of service to the community.

A native of Washington County, Spalding served two terms on the Hagerstown City Council from 1981-1989.

"The maximum sentence of 10 years would be inappropriate," Poole said. "There is no evidence of other incidents or abuse of his own children."

An investigation by the Washington County Sheriff's Department led to a 16-count indictment that included charges of manufacturing computer-generated child pornography; compiling, printing or reproducing by means of a computer images of children in obscene performances; second-degree rape, child pornography - computers; second- and third-degree sex offenses; second-degree assault; possession of child pornography; perverted sexual practices; sodomy, and contributing to the conditions of a child.

All were dropped in exchange for the plea.

Cpl. Roy Harsh of the Washington County Sheriff's Department went to Spalding's 609 Ravenswood Drive home Dec. 10, 1999, and asked if he knew the victim.

Spalding said yes.

He was charged after his personal computer and 83 diskettes had been studied by the special computer crimes unit of the Maryland State Police. He was later freed on a $75,000 property bond.

Thousands of pornographic pictures were found, among them hundreds in which children were depicted performing sex acts, Lochbaum said.

When the girl was interviewed by deputies, she said she met someone named Steve in an Internet chat room in November 1997 when she was 11 years old.

Those Internet conversations continued until February 1999.

The first face-to-face meeting occurred in July 1999 after the girl invited Spalding to her home and they sat in her back yard.

Hugging that began during the first visit progressed during other visits to touching, oral sex and at least five incidents of sexual intercourse on a blanket in the back yard of the girl's home, Lochbaum said in July.

There were also encounters in Spalding's van.

Employed since 1991 by the Washington County Engineering Department, Spalding resigned Jan. 5 from his position as a project manager.

"I was project manager of this courtroom's renovation and also for two wings at the Washington County Detention Center," Spalding said Tuesday. "Never did I think I'd walk through their doors as a convict."

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