A Hillsboro man was sentenced to seven years in prison on Thursday after he pled no contest to the rape of a 13-year-old girl.
Benjamin McClellan, 19, received his sentence in Highland County Common Pleas Court after Judge Rocky Coss heard arguments from the prosecution and defense.
According to court documents, McClellan admitted to authorities last year that he had sex with the juvenile during the summer of 2017 while he was staying in her home.
An officer with the Hillsboro Police Department said the victim was 13 at the time. According to court documents, McClellan told the victim he would hurt her if she told anyone.
DNA samples taken from the victim matched McClellan’s, according to court documents.
McClellan was arrested in November and indicted in December.
McClellan pled no contest last month to the second count of the indictment, and the first count, a rape charge alleging a separate incident with the same victim when she was 12 years old, was dropped as part of a plea agreement.
During Thursday’s hearing, Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins asked Coss to sentence McClellan to no less than nine years in prison due to the seriousness of the offense.
Collins said unlike a similar rape case sentenced on Wednesday, in which the juvenile victim said she had feelings for the 20-year-old defendant and did not wish for him to be prosecuted, the victim in this case did not have feelings for McClellan and wanted him to be prosecuted.
“She’s a really neat young lady,” Collins said. “She’s struggling… She’s going to be struggling for the rest of her life. She’s carrying this, and I can see this is going to be a long time of healing.”
While the victim was not present in the courtroom, Collins read a letter from her to the court.
The letter said while the victim had at one point trusted McClellan, she realized later that “he was just grooming me,” adding, “I can’t trust people like I used to.”
The victim said she “can never sleep without having a nightmare,” describing a dream she had in which McClellan buried her alive.
In arguments from the defense, Columbus attorney Adam Burke said that the victim’s motivation for bringing the rape allegations was to get out of the house and live with a different family member, adding that the victim had brought sexual assault allegations against a different person, apparently trying to get them in trouble, then rescinded them later.
“It’s something she’s done in the past,” he said.
Burke also said “significant portions” of the letter the victim had written were just verbatim quotes from the works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Burke said he intended to appeal the case immediately after the hearing, and court records show an appeal was filed with the sentencing paperwork.
Burke asked Coss to sentence McClellan “on the low end of the range.”
Coss said the victim’s reasons for telling police had no bearing on the case because the DNA test proved she had been raped.
“Science doesn’t lie,” Coss siad.
Burke contended that there was no scientific proof that McClellan had used force during intercourse.
Coss added that McClellan initially denied the crime until police confronted him with the evidence, at which point he confessed.
Coss told McClellan that the victim is “obviously deeply disturbed by this,” and that “people do not recover from this easily.”
“You have responsibility for that,” he said.
After Coss handed down the sentence, Burke requested a stay in execution of the sentence pending the result of the appeal. Coss denied it.
McClellan is now registered as a Tier III sex offender.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.