The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

April 23, 2014

Man deemed predator – for now

SHARON — A former Sharon man was sent to the state prison system Tuesday for corrupting the morals of a teenage girl, but the question of whether his penalties under Megan’s Law will stand could be subject to future legal proceedings.

Joe M. Lemons Jr., 35, formerly of Prindle Street, pleaded guilty Dec. 20, specifying that the charge was of a sexual nature.

The Sexual Offenders Assessment Board evaluated Lemons and recommended that he is a sexually violent predator, but the state Supreme Court about 1è months ago ruled that Megan’s Law, which sets sex offender guidelines, is unconstitutional, said Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

The high court also gave the Legislature 90 days to enact a new Megan’s Law to fix the problem with the current one.

Dobson said the Supreme Court ruling “throws everything into flux.”

“I’m not sure what applies,” he said.

Assistant Mercer County Public Defender did not challenge the board’s report, but argued that, because the offense Lemons pleaded guilty to occurred prior to the Dec. 20, 2012, enactment date of Megan’s Law, Lemons is not subject to it.

The Megan’s Law that was in effect at the time did not list corruption of a minor as an offense for which someone could be deemed a sexually violent predator.

Assistant District Attorney Daniel Davis countered that the Supreme Court set the effective date of the decision for 90 days from its issuance, leaving the current Megan’s Law effective until then.

Dobson agreed with Davis’ argument, adding that Megan’s Law makes no mention of when an offense occurred. Since Lemons pleaded guilty after the enactment date, he is subject to it, the judge said.

Dobson deemed Lemons a sexually violent predator, making him subject to more stringent reporting and counseling requirements. Lemons also will have to register as a sexual offender for life.

However, Dobson added that his order would become null and void if  state leaders enact a new Megan’s Law.

While the legal arguments were playing out in court, the victim, now 16, and her mother waited patiently.

The girl, who accused Lemons of having a sexual relationship with her over an eight-month period in 2012, addressed a letter she said Lemons had sent to someone else. In the letter, she said, Lemons blamed her for coming on to him and for trying to blackmail him, and she denied that either episode occurred.

She had nothing more she wanted to say, but Davis asked her to describe what her life has been like since the assaults.

The girl said she became depressed and has cut herself. She said she never had mental health issues before.

The victim also said she wasn’t worried about incarceration time for Lemons, only that other minors would be protected. Lemons twice previously was convicted of corruption for sexual offenses, Davis said.

“It’s not the first child he’s done this to,” the girl’s mother said. “It won’t be the last if he’s given another chance.”

Lemons asked for another chance. He said he is “detested” and “appalled” by his behavior.

“This has cost me everything,” he said, adding that he wants to participate in a faith-based treatment program.

“Anything I can do, I will do it,” Lemons said. “I’m not going to wait for someone to say, ‘Hey, why don’t you try this?’ ”

Lemons said he believes he can be a productive member of society. “All I’m asking is to give me a chance,” he said.

Dobson, who called Lemons’ behavior “ruinous,” sentenced him to 15 months to 5 years in state prison, but noted that, with 491 days’ credit, he had already served his minimum term.

“Technically, you’re eligible for parole right now,” Dobson said, but added that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole will decide when Lemons is released.

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