PORT CLINTON - Convicted last month of offering six female students at Woodmore High School money for sex, a former wrestling coach at the school was sentenced yesterday to 180 days in jail and declared a sexually oriented offender.
During an emotional hearing in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court, John Bedford sat quietly as three of the young women and the mother of a fourth victim told him and visiting Judge Charles D. Abood how his actions had scarred them and their families.
They accused the former coach of violating a position of trust and said they had faced a campaign of harassment and innuendo since making their allegations against him more than a year and a half ago.
"I thought, how could someone I loved and trusted do this to me ... You have taken something from me I can't get back - my ability to be a kid," one of them said as she choked back tears.
Another young woman addressed him in a voice shaking with rage. "Thanks to you, John Bedford, you have made it hard for me to be able to trust people I love," she said. "Nobody should have to go through what we went through."
Another victim said supporters of the former coach had verbally abused her for speaking up against his actions.
"People still ask me how could I do this," she said, trembling and weeping as she read a statement. "My only reply is, 'how could he do this to me?' "
Bedford did not speak before being sentenced, but his attorney, Lorin Zaner, said his client deserved credit for pleading no contest to six counts of attempting to compel prostitution and sparing the six students and their families the ordeal of a trial.
"We believe this was a very try-able case, but in the interest of everyone, we entered into this plea agreement ... I ask the court to consider that we have done the right thing," he said.
Bedford was indicted in January, 2004, on 21 counts of compelling prostitution, a third-degree felony, and two counts of disseminating material harmful to juveniles, a fifth-degree felony. The indictment alleged that Bedford sought sex from the students starting in November, 2002, and showed pornographic videos to some of them.
Besides the jail time, Judge Abood placed Bedford on five years' community control and approved a defense request that he be released daily during his jail time so he can work. Because Bedford was classified as a sexually oriented offender, he will have to move out of his Woodville home because it is within 1,000 feet of Woodmore Elementary School, Mr. Zaner said.
The judge ordered that he have no contact with the victims or their families.
Judge Abood said several factors made Bedford eligible for community control rather than a prison term, including a criminal record with just one, unrelated offense.
However, he said he was troubled by what he considered Bedford's failure to accept responsibility for his actions. "The defendant, to my knowledge, shows no genuine remorse or recognition that his actions were wrong," Judge Abood said.
After sentencing Bedford, the judge turned to the five victims in court and addressed them and their families. "Don't believe you ever did anything but the right thing," he said. "It was never going to be easy. ... I commend you for your courage."
At the hearing's end, Bedford spoke briefly with members of his family, who cried as they watched sheriff's deputies handcuff him and lead him out of the courtroom.
Lorrain Croy, an assistant Ottawa County prosecutor, said she and the young women and their families had been aware that Judge Abood was unlikely to send Bedford to prison. "Each one of those victims feels terribly victimized, but when a court sentences a person, they have to compare that case to other, similar cases," she said.
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