After a jury failed to come to a decision on three of Thomas Shifflet’s sexual abuse charges earlier this month, he pleaded no contest to the charges and was found guilty Wednesday.
On March 19, a jury of the Athens County Court of Common Pleas found Shifflet, 76, guilty of one count of gross sexual imposition and not guilty on one count of sexual imposition. The jury did not come to a decision on Shifflet’s three other charges: one of rape and two of gross sexual imposition.
Tuesday, Shifflet entered into an Alfred no-contest plea agreement with the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office. As part of the agreement, Shifflet is not admitting guilt to the charges but is acknowledging that a reasonable jury could find him guilty of the charges.
The rape charge was reduced to a gross sexual imposition charge, a third-degree felony. Judge Michael Ward found ShiProxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0 let guilty of the three counts of gross sexual imposition in addition to the one count of which the jury found him guilty.
Shifflet was found guilty for molesting 3-, 4- and 8-year-old girls at his daughter’s daycare centers in Glouster and a 10-year-old in a car driving through Athens County. The incidents took place between November 2010 and June 2011.
Shifflet was given a five-year mandatory sentence for each of the four gross sexual imposition convictions to run all at once; he’ll be in prison for five years.
“(Shifflet) is 76 years old. We think five years is enough to protect the public,” Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said, adding he decided to offer Shifflet a plea agreement because it could get justice for all the victims.
Blackburn said the victims’ families agreed to the five-year sentence, and three of them gave statements to the court.
“It is hard to trust anyone after what happened to our child,” the 4-year-old victim’s mother said. “Our child went through something no child should have to go through.”
The 4-year-old’s mother also accused Shifflet’s daughter of knowing the abuse was occurring at her daycare center and not doing anything about it. Her statements caused a brief disagreement in the gallery before bailiffs intervened.
The 3-year-old victim’s mother read a statement her child asked her to read to Ward and Assistant Athens County Prosecutor Robert Driscoll.
“‘Shifflet is a bad man and he needs to go to jail for hurting me,’” she read.
The 8-year-old victim’s mother spoke about the lasting effects of what Shifflet did to the victims.
“Unlike your prison sentence, our children do not have a release date,” she said.
In addition to the five-year sentence, Shifflet will have to register as a Tier II sex offender after he is released from prison and be on post-release control for five years.