EL man gets 42 months for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor

LISBON — An East Liverpool man, who had been accused of giving his teenage stepdaughter marijuana and then committing sexual acts with her later the same night, was sentenced to 42 months in prison on Friday.

In December James Jay Tanner, 37, Spring Grove, East Liverpool, had given an Alford plea to unlawful sexual conduct with a minor — one count of the three count indictment against him. The other two charges of rape and sexual battery will be dismissed. An Alford plea is one where the defendant does not admit guilt, but admits there is evidence by which a judge or jury could find him guilty.

The girl’s mother spoke to Judge Scott Washam before sentencing, stating while she was not satisfied with the three-and-a-half-year recommendation from the plea agreement, she had reluctantly agreed to it in order to save her daughter from testifying in the case. Tanner also said he had offered the Alford plea because he did not want the girl “to go through this anymore.”

The mother also read a letter written by the daughter, who got up and left the court room due to her emotions right before her mother started to read. In the letter, the daughter had said “It still feels like a very bad dream, but it’s not.” She talked about losing her trust in everyone because of what happened and described how hard it has been for her to continue with her life, even to just hang out with her friends.

“She was a beautiful, bright and a fun-loving child,” the mother described her daughter, “and you changed all that for your own selfish reasons.”

Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol said the mother was out of the home working on May 15, 2015, when Tanner was at home. First he reportedly asked the girl, who had just turned 14-years-old to come into the basement to talk to her. He gave her marijuana. Later he reportedly came into her bedroom when she was asleep, and she awoke to find herself being improperly touched.

The girl waited until the morning, when her mother was home, and told her mom about what happened.

McNicol said DNA evidence confirmed the girl’s story. Both McNicol and Washam pointed out Tanner was in a position of trust with this family, which was violated by what happened.

Defense attorney James Hartford asked Washam to consider probation for Tanner, who he said has only a couple misdemeanor charges in his past. Hartford said despite no high school diploma or GED, Tanner had held a steady job since 1998, until the accusations were made, and had provided for his family. He asked Washam to consider placing Tanner in the Eastern Ohio Corrections Center, where he could be held for six months while he worked to get his GED and counseling.

But Washam said he was concerned by the violation of trust and the possible drug-use involved in the commission of the crime. He sentenced Tanner to the recommended 42-month prison sentence and ordered him to be a Tier II sexual offender, required to register every 180 days for 25 years.

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