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MILLERSBURG -- Confronted with additional evidence against himself, a Killbuck man on Thursday admitted to having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl.
David A. Phillips, 29, formerly of 151° S. Main St., pleaded guilty in Holmes County Common Pleas Court to one count each of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, disseminating matter harmful to juveniles and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a minor.
In exchange for his guilty plea, the state agreed to dismiss one additional charge of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, one count of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance and two more counts of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
While Phillips faced up to seven years in prison, Judge Robert Rinfret accepted and adopted a jointly recommended sentence of 18 months in prison.
In discussing the issue with Phillips, Rinfret noted, the law exists to prevent predators from having even consensual sex with minors. "I have three daughters, thank God they didn't have Facebook (as teens)," said Rinfret.
His admonishment was interrupted by Phillips, who used profanity to express his dissatisfaction with the law.
The offer, including the sentencing recommendation, was made with the understanding there is a risk any time a case goes to trial, according to Holmes County Prosecutor Sean Warner, explaining some of the evidence could have been confusing to a jury.
A plea, he said, also eliminates the reliance on the testimony of a 14-year-old girl who was "not thrilled to tell strangers about her sexual experiences."
The girl was well-informed of and in complete agreement with the state's offer, according to victim advocate Andy Zedella.
From Phillips' perspective, defense attorney Jeff Kellogg said, "The state provided evidence just recently that I couldn't challenge."
The evidence -- Facebook correspondence between Phillips and the girl -- was reviewed with Phillips, who, just days prior to the scheduled start of a trial, elected to accept the deal, said Kellogg.
The Holmes County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation on Nov. 30 after Holmes County Job and Family Services received two calls in which Phillips was identified as a suspect in allegations of sexual misconduct with children.
During the investigation, Detective Sgt. Jim Henry said he became aware of allegations Phillips had exchanged a series of photo messages with a juvenile girl. Photos shared between the two allegedly depicted each in various stages of nudity.
It also was suggested Phillips took the same 14-year-old girl out of the county, where they allegedly engaged in sex twice, between April 26 and Aug. 15, according to Henry.
Confronted about the allegations, the girl admitted to not only exchanging photos with Phillips, but having consensual sexual intercourse with him, said Henry, noting, Ohio law prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from consenting to sex.
Two others confirmed observing the Phillips and the girl engaging in sexual activity; however, Phillips denied not only the allegations, but denied knowing the girl at all, said Henry.
As a consequence of his conviction, Phillips was identified as a Tier II sex offender, subjecting him to 25 years of registration as such.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.