Warren County man assigned status as sexually violent predator

By JACOB PERRYMAN

jperryman@timesobserver.com

Another Warren County man is facing a lifetime of registration as a sexually violent predator.

Thomas T. Sherman, last known address 33022 Rt. 6, Pittsfield, was designated a sexually violent predator and sentenced before Judge Maureen Skerda on a count of aggravated indecent assault Friday afternoon.

Sherman previously pled guilty to the count and five additional charges of statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact or communication with a minor, sexual assault, corruption of minors and indecent assault each and four additional charges of aggravated indecent assault were not prosecuted.

The charges stem from a series of incidents between 2008 and 2011 in which Sherman molested his minor babysitter on five to ten separate occasions. The victim was between 12 and 16 years-old at the time while Sherman was between 28 and 32 years-old. A difference of approximately 16 years.

During the hearing to determine whether Sherman met the statutory criteria to be designated a sexually violent predator, Brenda Manno, a board member with the state sexual offenders assessment board, provided the only testimony on the matter.

Manno stated that, as of this month, she has performed 1,180 designation evaluations since she was appointed tot he board in 1998 and is certified as an expert witness in 19 Pennsylvania counties.

Manno recalled Sherman’s defense counsel notified the board Sherman would not be participating in an evaluation interview, something Manno said is not uncommon. According to Manno, the lack of an interview did not hamper her assessment of Sherman.

Manno attested she found Sherman qualified as suffering from, “paraphelia not otherwise designated”. Which is clinically considered a mental abnormality.

Manno also attested Sherman’s behavior exhibited predatory behavior due to the nature of the encounters and the duration over which the incidents occurred.

Prosecuting attorney for the commonwealth Barry Klenowski questioned Manno as to what led her to believe the incidents were spread over a significant period of time, despite Sherman only entering a guilty plea to one charge.

Manno noted the actual wording of the criminal charge indicated multiple incidents over a prolonged period of time, which she said indicated, “maintenance or promotion,” of sexual activity with the victim.”

When asked if she felt Sherman met the standards to be legally designated a sexually violent predator Manno responded, “With a reasonable degree of professional certainty I believe he meets the criteria of a sexually violent predator by statute.”

“I would argue against finding Mr. Sherman to be a sexually violent predator,” Sherman’s defense attorney, Alan Kahne, said in closing statements. “He entered into a relationship with a girl who was his babysitter. I would argue that is not predatory.”

Kahne went on to note Sherman only engaged in sexual activity with his victim five to ten times over a period of three years.

“We have testimony from an expert in the field on this case,” Klenowski noted in his own closing statements. “We have indications Mr. Sherman employed the victim as a babysitter in order to gain access to her for his sexual conquests.”

Before ruling on the designation, Skerda said, “There is clear and convincing evidence. We have only the testimony of Ms. Manno. There is no counter testimony. So the question becomes, does Mr. Sherman meet the requirements to be designated a sexually violent predator.”

Skerda went on to outline how Sherman met the criteria for designation of, “a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense… and who is determined to be a sexually violent predator due to a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in predatory sexually violent offenses.”

Sherman, she said, qualified as having a mental abnormality, paraphelia, and his behavior indicated a likelihood of re-offense.

“Mr. Sherman continued to engage in sexual activity with the victim against her will,” Skerda noted. “…continued to molest the victim… showed a continuing desire to engage in sexual activity with an underage girl… Mr. Sherman ensured he had free access in the home… The testimony certainly indicates to the court that Mr. Sherman meets the criteria of a sexually violent predator.”

It was noted Sherman did not demonstrate excessive cruelty in commission of his crimes.

Sherman opted to give no comment prior to being sentenced.

Skerda sentenced Sherman to between 42 and 90 months incarceration in a state correctional facility with 247 days credit for time served, to submit a DNA sample, to complete a sexual offender treatment program prior to release from prison, to have no contact with the victim and to pay $3,175 in total fines and costs. As a designated sexually violent predator, Sherman is a lifetime Megan’s Law registrant required to report to the state police quarterly and follow all other registrant guidelines.