A man who had sex with a 16-year-old male, at the time a foster child in his care, pled guilty on Thursday to sexual battery and now faces up to 60 months in prison.
Benjamin J. Wright, 31, of Canal Winchester, formerly of Leesburg, appeared in court with attorney J.D. Wagoner and an American Sign Language interpreter for a plea hearing, during which the interpreter used sign language to communicate with Wright, who is hearing impaired.
According to court documents, Wright engaged in sexual conduct with a 16-year-old male while the juvenile was living with him in Leesburg in the summer of 2017. Wright was a foster parent to the juvenile at the time, court documents said.
Highland County authorities received word in April 2018 from Adams County Children Services that the juvenile told officials about the sexual encounters, according to court documents.
Wright was indicted on one count of sexual battery, a third-degree felony, in September 2018.
In law enforcement interviews, Wright first denied to police that he had been sexually involved with the juvenile, but later admitted that he had, court documents said. According to court documents, Wright said there were four sexual encounters. Wright told police that he knew this was wrong and illegal, but “after discussing the events with a longtime friend, he had learned his lesson,” said a law enforcement affidavit.
Interpreter Bob Coltrane interpreted proceedings for Wright on Thursday using American Sign Language, and Wright verbally responded to questions from the judge. After Wright entered his plea, he looked briefly upward and appeared to wipe a tear from his eye.
Wright faces up to 60 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. He will be required to register as a Tier III sex offender for the rest of his life, according to Highland County Prosecuting Attorney Anneka Collins.
Wright said during the hearing that in addition to being a licensed foster parent, he is a licensed teacher in Ohio and other states. Judge Rocky Coss said the state would be notified of his plea and respond accordingly.
Coss ordered a presentence investigation be completed.
Prosecution and defense will argue sentencing at a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 6.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.