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Mark Edwards Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison
SPRINGFIELD -- Mark Edwards, accused of unlawful sexual conduct with a 14-year-old girl, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Edwards, 44, was accused of disappearing with the girl, a family friend, for three days in February.
Edwards has never been one to show much of any emotion, at least not in front of our cameras.
Reporter Wale Aliyu asked, "Do you regret any of this, Mark?" as officers hauled Edwards off to jail after his final court appearance.
No response there, but he did, however, express some remorse in court.
"I am very sorry for my conduct in this calamity," he said. "I still care about those two as family members of my own and I hope that I am forgiven for this."
The prosecution asked the judge for the max of 35 years. Five years for each of seven counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor after learning Edwards had been grooming the 14-year-old victim for years.
"I had her in my office preparing for trial and she literally threw up in our office, not because she was going to have to come in here and testify but the fact that she may not be old enough to see him again," said Assistant County Prosecutor Brian Driscoll. "That's how good this individual was."
Meanwhile, the defense wanted the minimum of no jail, just probation.
"All of these offenses were nonviolent in nature. There is no allegation of any force being used," said defense attorney Matthew Jensen. "There are multiple counts within this case, however, there is really only a single offense and that is that my client plead guilty to conduct with the same individual over a period of time."
Judge Douglas Rastatter ruled down the middle.
"Those sentences will be ordered to be run consecutively for a total cumulative of 20 years in the Ohio state penitentiary," said Rastatter.
The victim will be back in school this fall and her mom tells ABC 22/FOX 45 her daughter has had a change of heart.
"She used to be in tears, asking not to take Mark Edwards away from her," said Tammy Bruce. "But today she told me that she's not sad about the sentencing and that Edwards got what he deserved."
"In all of his versions he put it that he was trying to help this 14-year-old victim out," said Driscoll. "That he was just doing things to help her and it got out of hand and she actually encouraged and made him commit the unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Obviously, when you are a 44-year-old adult dealing with a 14-year-old victim you are not being made to have sexual relations."
"It's just terrible to blame victims and we really need to focus on holding these offenders accountable for their terrible behaviors, especially when they don't show remorse or even understand that they are the ones that did anything wrong," said Wendy Holt of the Clark County Child Advocacy Center. "It is quite sickening."
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