An Albrightsville man was sentenced to a county prison term on Thursday afternoon after pleading guilty to assaulting a young girl.
John Leroy VanTassell, 69, of 271 Petrarch Trail, Towamensing Township, was sentenced by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic to serve three to 23 months on a charge of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony three, and was placed on probation for a year on a charge of indecent assault, a misdemeanor one. The terms run consecutively.
VanTassell also falls under the guidelines of Megan's Law. He waived his right to a hearing on a recommendation by the state sexual offenders board that he was determined to be a violent sexual predator which means he must register for life as a sexual offender. He must notify the state police of his residence, place of work and other conditions. If he changes location, he must immediately notify the state police.
Prior to the sentencing VanTassell entered guilty pleas, for the second time, to the two counts. He previously entered the pleas and appeared before Nanovic on April 6 to be sentenced. At that time he told the court he wanted to withdraw his plea and go to trial.
Nanovic held a hearing on the petition to withdraw the plea and it was granted. VanTassell was scheduled to go on trial during the September term of court but it was continued to October. He then changed his mind again and entered the pleas.
He was charged with having improper sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl during a period of July, 2006, through February, 2007.
He was originally charged with more than 128 child sexual assault related counts. He reached a plea bargain in January to plea to just the two counts.
Assistant District Attorney Jean Engler said that the plea agreement was approved by the family of the victim. Engler said the plea avoided the victim having to testify at a trial saving her further trauma.
Nanovic told VanTassell that if the plea agreement wasn't approved by the family, which called for the three to 23 month prison term, he would have imposed a much harsher sentence.
Defense Attorney Stephen Vlossak, of Palmerton, told Nanovic that his client has another side to him other than the one in the criminal complaint. He presented letters of support from family members and friends that VanTassell was a person who helps other people and has come forward to take responsibility for what he did.
An aunt of the victim said the victim suffers sleepless nights and will never be the same because of what happened.
Engler praised the victim for her courage throughout the long ordeal. She said she never wavered in her accounts of what happened and was willing to testify despite the trauma of such testimony.
VanTassell asked that he be placed in isolation at the prison because of how defendants in abuse cases involving children are treated by other inmates. Nanovic said the court has nothing to do with how the prison system handles a prisoner once he is sentenced and cannot interfere with the operation of the prison.
Nanovic also ordered that VanTassell undergo a sexual offender's evaluation as required under the law, get a mental health evaluation, supply a DNA sample and pay the $250 fee, have no unsupervised contact with children, have no contact with the victim or her family, pay court costs and a $50 per month supervision fee.
He will begin the jail term at noon on Oct. 1.