By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
A Mercer County official of the Civil Air Patrol has been charged with corrupting a 15-year-old girl member of the group by offering to buy her a sexually explicit movie and telling her she has a sexually transmitted disease, Hermitage police said.
James A. Vessella, 67, of 106 17th St., Pymatuning Township, denied the allegations and said he believes the girl made them up because he advised her to break up with her boyfriend, police said.
Vessella was charged with corruption of a minor and unlawful contact with a minor. He has posted bail and faces a preliminary hearing at 9:15 a.m. Dec. 19 before District Judge Ronald E, Antos, Farrell.
Vessella, who has the rank of major in CAP, is public affairs officer for Region 6, which includes Mercer County, and is commander of Mercer County Composite Squadron 122. He was PAO of the Year for 2010.
Police said they were notified Oct. 11 by Mercer County Children and Youth Services of the allegations and interviewed the victim.
The girl said she has been in the CAP group that meets in Hermitage for about a year. Vessella started pulling her aside in September and talking to her about personal issues, and she told him she had a boyfriend and was sexually active, police said.
The girl said she met Vessella at a local restaurant and he told her he had a “slutty” movie she could watch for educational purposes, police said.
On Oct. 10, Vessella went to the girl’s home and told her that her boyfriend had given her an infection and was cheating on her, police said.
Vessella said he needed to examine the girl’s vagina; that she should break up with her boyfriend; and that she should buy a vibrator or dildo and could use the computer at his house to make the purchase, police said.
He also told the victim she could use a vaginal wash at his house and that he had the movie for her, police said.
Police said they interviewed Vessella Oct. 15 and he denied meeting the girl at the restaurant; offering to buy her the movie; offering to examine her genitals; saying she had an STD; or inviting her to his house.
He also claimed he had never been alone with the girl, but she and her mother reported he had given the girl rides, police said.
Vessella admitted going to the girl’s house Oct. 10 to check up on her because she had not been at the previous CAP meeting, police said.
He also admitted knowing the girl was sexually active with adult males, police said.