CANTON: A former basketball coach and school aide pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of videotaping boys in a Jackson High School locker room shower.
Scott D. Studer, 46, who coached the Jackson freshman team for 15 seasons, immediately was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He also was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and is banned for life from coaching or volunteering with youths.
Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione took considerable steps to protect the privacy of the victims — possibly as many as 112, prosecutors said — and their families.
He ordered that the images Studer made of boys showering and other graphic material be turned over to the county prosecutor’s office, with instructions not to be viewed by anybody unless he gives approval.
Forchione ordered the images destroyed after two years. He said he chose that time frame to preserve the evidence in the event other charges emerge in the case.
Studer was arrested after a Nov. 14 search of his Jackson Township home. Investigators found nude images on a DVD, a laptop computer and a flash drive.
According to Ohio sentencing laws, Studer could have been sentenced to 64 years in prison.
Forchione instead gave Studer five years for each of the eight felony counts to which he pleaded guilty, but ordered only the first three to be served consecutively.
Studer was ordered to pay the $5,000 fine within 90 days, even if he has to use his pension funds.
The money will not go to the court or to the county.
Forchione said it will go to the families of the school shooting victims of Newtown, Conn., so that “something good is going to come out of this very awful situation [with Studer].”
He described Studer’s crimes in one word: “horrible.”
“As a former athlete,” Forchione said, “I can tell you that locker rooms are a sacred place for inspiration [and] motivation, and you used it for your own self-gratification.
“This whole process,” he said, “has been a slap at the coaching profession in some way, which I think is one of the most honorable and selfless professions.”
He mentioned three coaches, including youth baseball coach Fred Thomas, who had positive contributions on his upbringing and, even now, his standing as a judge. He called them men of character and integrity.
“I have to tell you, it is still important what they think of me today, it really, really is,” Forchione said.
Studer spoke only briefly, apologizing to all of the people he hurt, most of all his players, for what he described as his “bad decisions” and the “bad things” he did.
“I wish I could take it all back and make everything better for them,” he said, “but I know I can’t. I hope some day they can find in their hearts to forgive me, but I understand if they can’t.”
One teen stood in the front row of the public gallery and addressed the court.
The entire process, he said, “was devastating to the community.”
He called Studer a “selfish and sick person” who was supposed to be his mentor.
Afterward, outside court, a father of one of the teens, who did not wish to be identified, said “betrayal” best reflected Studer’s crimes.
“That’s exactly it. We cared for him. We trusted him,” the father said.
Under terms of Ohio’s sentencing laws, Studer will be eligible for parole after serving about 7½ years, Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Chryssa Hartnett said.
It is highly unlikely, however, that he will be released after serving only half of his time, Hartnett said, because Forchione ordered that he would review Studer’s case after he serves 10 years.
Forchione made no promises of release at that point in Studer’s prison term.
Outside court, Hartnett explained the reasoning behind the eight counts in the indictment. Instead of compiling evidence and filing charges related to each one of the dozens of young men who were victimized, it made more sense to file one charge for each season in which the crimes were committed, she said.
Hartnett said the investigation determined the taping began in 2005. Studer carried on throughout the course of each season, she said, into 2012.
Forchione classified Studer as a Tier II sex offender. As such, he must register his address with the sheriff for 25 years.
The judge said that even when Studer’s prison time ends and he is released, the penalties will continue.
“I think you’re going to find yourself ostracized from this community forever,” Forchione told him.
One teen’s letter to the court, which Hartnett read, was further evidence of that.
Calling Studer “Coach Stu,” the teen said Studer once was his inspiration and hero.
“I thought you were a great man,” the letter stated, “but now all I see are lies and deceit. You have tainted the program I love and tarnished the memories we all hold most dear.
“You were my hero. Now you are my demon.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.