A former Kent State University professor was sentenced to eight months in prison Monday for soliciting sex from a teenage boy last year.
Willie J. Harrell Jr., 45, of Akron, pleaded guilty July 25 to importuning, a fifth-degree felony. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Amy Corrigall Jones sentenced Harrell to eight months. He faced up to a year in prison, but also could have gotten probation.
Harrell, who worked as an associate professor of English at Kent State until he was fired after his arrest, had attempted to meet the teen in an elementary school parking lot after exchanging messages online.
Two days after his arrest, Harrell posted a $25,000 bond to get out of jail — and attempted to flee the country. He was caught by Canadian authorities as he tried to cross the border from Detroit to Ontario.
Assistant Prosecutor Seema Misra pointed to Harrell’s attempt to flee as evidence that he should receive prison time.
“His actions while on pretrial release demonstrate he is not amenable to community control,” she said.
Scott Rilley, Harrell’s attorney, argued for probation for his client. He said Harrell’s actions have already cost him “everything,” including his job, his career and his home. He pointed out that this was Harrell’s first criminal offense.
The teen whom Harrell solicited wasn’t present in court.
When Jones asked Harrell if he wanted to speak, he told her, “No, your honor.” Harrell, dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, stared at the courtroom carpeting throughout his sentencing.
Harrell will be labeled a Tier 1 sex offender.
“I wish you the best of luck,” Jones told Harrell before he was led from the courtroom by Summit County sheriff’s deputies.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith.