Judge sentences sex criminal, public reacts
SCHUYLER COUNTY--In November, 2018 Honorable Judge Dennis Morris found Shawn M. Wheeler, 33, guilty of a criminal sexual act in the second degree, and three separate counts of sexual abuse in the third degree. The verdict was from a four day bench trial conducted earlier that month, prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney, Matthew Hayden. The conviction for a criminal sexual act in the second degree, a class D violent felony, is based upon the defendant (who is older than 18) engaging in a sexual act with a female victim who was 13 years old. The sexual abuse charges stem from additional sexual contact with that same victim, without her consent. The matter had been adjourned for sentencing, at which time the defendant faced a possible sentence of up to seven years in state prison, with up to 10 years post-release supervision.
The defendant, Shawn M. Wheeler, Tyrone, was sentenced in Schuyler County Court by Judge Morris Thursday, Feb. 21. The court sentenced the defendant to 26 weekends in jail and 10 years probation, and he will have to register as a sex offender.
ADA Hayden has objected to the sentencing as a whole. At sentencing, Hayden argued that the court should sentence the defendant to the maximum sentence of seven years in state prison, with 10 years post-release supervision.
In arguing for the maximum sentence, Hayden declared that the defendant had targeted the victim due to her suffering from significant intellectual disabilities. He further argued that the defendant betrayed his position of trust, because the victim was his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He described how as a result of this sexual assault the victim has been separated from her mother, and has been removed from her siblings, resulting in punishment above and beyond the horrors of the sexual assault. Hayden described the acts of the defendant as evil and heinous, and that the defendant deserved no mercy.
The Schuyler County Probation Department also recommended the maximum sentence. The defendant has never taken responsibility for his actions, and he said nothing at sentencing.
The sentencing has caused strong public reactions. Various social media platforms displayed comments last Thursday (the day of sentencing) and have continued through the weekend. The Schuyler County District Attorney's Facebook page carried more than 123 comments regarding the sentencing and another local media outlet included more than 503 comments from area residents as of Sunday evening, Feb. 24. The overwhelming majority of comments were negative to the judge's sentencing and many negative towards the judge himself.