By Joe Wiercinski
Herald Staff Writer
LACKAWANNOCK TOWNSHIP —
The former township supervisor convicted twice before of indecent exposure was given probation for doing the same thing last summer.
Willis Jerald Swartz, 72, of 112 Nych Road, Lackawannock Township, also must get counseling, Mercer County Common Pleas Court President Judge Thomas R. Dobson told him Thursday at a sentencing hearing.
Swartz had pleaded no contest in November to a charge of open lewdness.
Swartz, driving in his pickup, pulled up next to a 16-year-old Sharon girl last May 23 as she was walking home from school along South Oakland Avenue.
She told police he masturbated in front of her. The victim gave police a license number that was the same one registered to Swartz’s truck and she later picked him out of a photo lineup.
Swartz’s attorney, Randall T. Hetrick, said at his sentencing that Swartz has always had a good work history and that except for his convictions in three cases for indecency, he has no other criminal record.
Pointing out that Swartz’s wife of more than 50 years died last summer, Hetrick noted that Swartz has four adult children who have remained supportive of him.
“We hope you will consider probation or house arrest,” Hetrick said, also citing Swartz’s age as a reason to ask for leniency in the sentence.
“What would you like to say?” Dobson asked, but Swartz’s brief reply, spoken softly, was inaudible in the rear of the courtroom.
“I’m putting you on probation for 18 months and three months of that is house arrest,” Dobson said.
Referring to a report saying Swartz does part-time road work for the township, Dobson said he could drive back and forth to work but otherwise must be accompanied by someone else because he committed his crimes in his pickup.
“Whenever you need to get groceries or go somewhere, you need someone to go with you,” Dobson said. “If you’re alone, that’s when you have gotten into trouble.”
Dobson also ordered Swartz, through his probation officer, to get grief counseling because of his wife’s death and “offense-specific” counseling related to his sexual crimes.
Swartz formerly served as a Lackawannock Township supervisor for one term before losing a re-election bid by two votes in the 2011 Republican primary.
He was first convicted of public indecency in Trumbull County in July 2006 for masturbating in front of two different women in separate incidents Oct. 6, 2005, in a Hubbard neighborhood.
The victims who later picked Swartz out of a lineup told police he had pulled up next to them in his pickup.
Swartz was accused three weeks later of doing the same thing along McCleery Street in Sharon.
The judge in Ohio ordered Swartz to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, ordered him to pay $571 in fines and costs and put him on probation for a year.
When Swartz was sentenced for open lewdness in the Sharon case, Judge Francis J. Fornelli sentenced him to 1 month to 1 year in jail, warning him that he could be put in a state prison if he committed the crime again.