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Sentence handed down to former TV-3 reporter for online proposition of teen
By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- A former local TV reporter must serve four years in prison for proposing sex acts with a 15-year-old girl he met through the Internet in 2009.
Judge John Wetsel Jr. sentenced Ryan P. O'Connor, 25, of Brooklyn, Conn., in Winchester Circuit Court on Monday to 30 years in prison for committing two counts each of using a computer to facilitate crimes involving a girl at least 15 years old and taking indecent liberties with a 14-year-old child, as well as five counts of possession of child pornography as a first offense.
O'Connor worked as a reporter for TV-3 Winchester, the local ABC affiliate, and as a waiter at International House of Pancakes before his arrest in September 2009.
Commonwealth's Attorney Alex R. Iden asked Wetsel to order O'Connor to serve 10 years in prison.
"Mr. O'Connor is a predator," Iden said, adding the defendant preyed on a girl already dealing with problems, "leading her to believe he loved her."
O'Connor's attorney, Andrew Hood, asked for a term of probation, no incarceration, and said he had not experienced any case of its type or the lengthy prison term in his 30 years of practicing law.
"He'd be under the scrutiny of this court," Hood said. "His career [as a reporter] is destroyed."
Hood questioned whether the commonwealth's evidence implicated his client, noting authorities had a four- or five-page summary of chats taken from three months of correspondence, and the Internet site required users to certify they were 18 or older. Likewise, Hood said the commonwealth couldn't say exactly how O'Connor came to possess the pornography.
O'Connor entered Alford pleas of guilt to the nine charges in February, in which the defendant maintains innocence but admits the commonwealth probably has enough evidence for a conviction. The plea agreement reached between his attorneys, Bryan J. Waldron and Hood, and the commonwealth capped O'Connor's active time of incarceration at 10 years and allowed sides to argue for a sentence within the parameters.
Authorities have said O'Connor tried to solicit sex from a girl in Chicago he met online in June 2009. The second charge of indecent liberties comes as a result of O'Connor sending a photograph of his penis to the girl, according to Iden.
During the sentencing hearing, the mother of the victim of the computer crimes said she discovered her daughter, then 14, had been corresponding with O'Connor and reported it to the Rolling Meadows Police Department in suburban Chicago.
The mother's name is not being published in order to protect the identity of the victim.
The victim's parents were separated at the time the correspondence began, according to the mother, who testified that her daughter before that time acted like any other teenager whose father no longer lived in the home.
"She was in love with him," the mother testified. "She just thought they had something, and it appeared that he loved her."
Since June 2009, the mother said, her daughter has been hospitalized and admitted to numerous in-patient and out-patient therapy programs to treat depression, and self-injury, such as cutting and burning. Her daughter has tried at least twice to commit suicide since O'Connor's arrest. She and the child's father have had to share in the expenses of therapy and treatment, the mother testified, the cost of which to her has passed $10,000. The entire situation "almost destroyed" her relationship with the girl, according to the mother.
"He made her happy," she said.
The mother said her daughter appeared willing to testify at first.
"It would destroy her," she said. "She would just crumble."
O'Connor apologized to the court for "creating a problem for this girl."
"I am extremely unhappy with what I did," O'Connor said before sentencing.
O'Connor received 10-year terms on each computer-related charge, with all but four years suspended, to run consecutive to each other and his other terms; 10 years on each indecent liberties count, and five years for the child pornography charges, all suspended and all to run concurrent with each other.
The defendant must serve 10 years of supervised probation, then 20 years of unsupervised probation upon his release.
"This case is a tragedy for both families," Wetsel said. "It also illustrates the dangers of the Internet."
O'Connor's mother broke down in tears as the judge imposed sentence then told her son she loved him as deputies took the defendant into custody.
Neither the victim's mother nor O'Connor's parents would comment after the hearing.
Outside court Iden expressed disappointment at the sentence imposed, which exceeded the low end of the guidelines that suggested O'Connor serve two years and five months.