By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
COOLSPRING TOWNSHIP —
A three-judge panel of state Superior Court said Monday it sees no reason to disturb the sentence of a local bowling alley owner who has been imprisoned for corrupting the morals of children at his business.
James M. Kopan, 48, formerly of Sharon, pleaded no contest to corruption and disseminating obscene materials and was sentenced to 2 years, 3 months to 7 years in state prison.
The 12 victims were between the ages of 7 and 15 and the crimes occurred between 2008 and 2011 in Tornado Alley, Coolspring Township, state police said.
Kopan showed the children pornography on a computer; set up a slip-and-slide, encouraged the kids to remove their clothing and removed his own clothing; showered in view of the kids; lifted a boy by the arm and genitals; exposed himself and masturbated in front of kids; and pulled down the underwear of a 9-year-old boy and inappropriately touched him, officials said.
Kopan argued his sentence was excessive and that Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson abused his discretion by not considering mitigating factors, such as letters written on his behalf and his lack of a prior criminal history, and should have imposed concurrent sentences on each count instead of consecutive ones.
Superior Court turned aside most issues saying there was no evidence Dobson had gone outside the Sentencing Code or violated the norms of sentencing.
The court agreed to consider parts of Kopan’s argument: that the sentence was too long and that Dobson considered an allegation – that he masturbated in front of children – that was not part of his plea.
However, Judge James J. Fitzgerald III said the length is proper considering that Dobson announced at the sentence hearing that he had reviewed every presentence report, mental health and drug and alcohol evaluation, victim impact statement and letter submitted to him.
On the allegation of uncharged criminal conduct, case law has established that judges can consider such allegations when there is an “evidentiary link” between the defendants and the conduct.
Fitzgerald noted the allegation about Kopan’s alleged masturbation in front of children was made at a previous guilty plea hearing.
The plea was later corrected to address a problem with the grading of the crimes.
Fitzgerald added that the other conduct Kopan admitted “justify” his sentence.