By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP —
Aaron Atkinson has been living in a 12-by-16, heated shed outside his mother’s home while sex charges against him are pending.
His mother cares for handicapped children and officials don’t want him living in his mother’s house with the kids.
Atkinson, 23, of 25 Jellison Lane, Lackawannock Township, said he was hoping to be able to move back inside, but that doesn’t appear to be possible under his sentence for corrupting the morals of a minor.
“I need to protect them from you,” Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John said Tuesday. “How can I let you have access to them?”
As part of his 3 years’ probation, Atkinson is not allowed to be around anyone younger than 18 unless he is strictly supervised by an adult.
State police charged Atkinson with sexually assaulting a teenage girl between 2010 and 2012. The girl, who was 15 when charges were filed last spring, had been cared for by Atkinson’s mother for 13 years, and Atkinson occasionally helped out his mother, he said.
Atkinson, who is mildly mentally retarded and has a host of physical ailments, said he became interested in touching the girl, who has since moved to Texas, after a friend showed him movies.
“Did you think she was OK with your touching her?” St. John asked.
“I don’t know,” Atkinson said, adding the girl never reacted.
The girl’s cerebral palsy is so severe that it renders her a “completely helpless child,” said Assistant Mercer County District Attorney Daniel Davis.
One of the past evaluations of Atkinson concluded he doesn’t always recognize the consequences of his actions.
“I realize that I made a mistake and it should never have happened,” Atkinson said. “It will never happen again. I’m looking to change my life.”
Defense attorney Randall T. Hetrick said he believes Atkinson knows right from wrong.
St. John called Atkinson’s a “strange case.”
“It presents a tremendous dilemma to the court,” St. John said.
The Sexual Offenders Assessment Board found that Atkinson is not a sexually violent predator, but he still must register as a sex offender for 15 years.
Atkinson’s father, Christopher D., 60, who lives in another building on the property, pleaded guilty in December to a charge of aggravated indecent assault for his actions with the same girl. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 5 by Judge Robert G. Yeatts.
Aaron Atkinson said his father was not with him when he touched the girl.