Strasburg man gets maximum sentence in child sex case

WOODSTOCK — Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Wednesday upheld a jury’s earlier recommendations for the maximum sentence in the case against a Strasburg man found guilty of committing sex acts against a boy in 2012.

Richard Owen Keller, 41, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the two charges he was found guilty of in March. He will serve 20 years for aggravated sexual battery against a victim younger than 13, and will serve 10 additional years for the indecent liberties charge.

David Hensley, Keller’s attorney, argued for setting aside the jury’s verdict, saying that comments made by witnesses during the trial were “highly inflammatory” and “prejudicial.” He asserted that the jury would not have been able to see past the comments when making their decision.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued that if the jury was as prejudiced as Hensley claimed, Keller would have been found guilty on all three charges. Keller was originally facing five charges relating to sexual offenses against two boys, aged 5 and 9 at the time. Hupp dismissed the two charges involving the younger child because the child’s description of events while on the witness stand did not meet the definitions of the offenses.

During the sentencing hearing, Campola told the court that in his time as a prosecutor, this case was the first time he’d ever seen a jury write “maximum” on the verdict form. He also described Keller as “sick and evil.”

“He’s nothing but a threat to the community,” Campola added.

Hupp noted that a jury’s verdict deserves the utmost respect, and added that if the jury had been allowed to know as much about the case as he did, he does not think they would have voted any differently. Hupp said that he saw no reason to deviate from the jury’s recommendations and gave Keller the 30-year sentence.