An Athens area man was sentenced Wednesday to 25-plus years in prison on 32 felony child pornography counts in Athens County Common Pleas Court.
Richard Adams, 75, of Hawks Road outside Athens, was at one time a prominent Nelsonville resident, Boy Scout leader and youth basketball coach.
Adams was incarcerated from 1989 to 1993 on multiple gross sexual imposition charges (non-consensual sexual touching) relating to a minor, and again from 1999 to 2011 for multiple sexual-assault crimes also involving minors. He was classified as a habitual sexual offender in 1999 (before the current three-tiered sex-offender registration system).
Now, Adams is heading back to prison, for a term that likely will last the rest of his life. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to 31 second-degree felony counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, and one count of pandering obscenity (also a second-degree felony), according to a release from the Athens County Prosecutor's Office.
Athens County Common Pleas Judge George McCarthy sentenced Adams to a total prison term of 25 to 27 1/2 years Wednesday.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said in the release that Adams "has been given far too many opportunities" to abuse children "prior to my term in office."
"It is likely that the sentence he received today is a life sentence," Blackburn wrote. "It is unfortunate that his previous sentences allowed him to be released from prison and reoffend.”
Adams was arrested in early July after the Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant on his home at Hawks Road (near the intersection of Ohio Rts. 13 and 550 on the North Side of Athens), after the Sheriff’s Office received a tip from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force about Adams’ online activity.
After being released from prison in 1993, Adams was again convicted in 1999 on a felony count of gross sexual imposition and a felony count of sexual battery. Then, in 2005 he pleaded guilty to three additional charges (two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of rape), which extended his time in prison to 2011.
“The charges stem from sexual contact he had in 1999 with a boy who at the time was 9 years old. He was indicted earlier this year for the offense,” The NEWS reported in 2005.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesperson Sara French has said that Adams was not paroled by the Ohio Parole Board in 2011. He served his full 12-year sentence, with an August 2011 release. He also received a “favorable final release” from post-release control after five years.
Blackburn said in a separate interview Thursday that his office so far has been unable to identify any local victims in the child pornography confiscated from Adams.
However, he added, "There are two (victims) that we are still trying to work on figuring out exactly who they may be. They may be someone locally or regionally, but we're not there yet."
Blackburn noted that Adams is part of an alleged child pornography ring, with three other men arrested in July on child pornography charges.
So far in those cases:
• John C. Shaw, 27, of Malta, Ohio, was indicted on Aug. 2 on one fourth-degree felony counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor; six counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material; four third-degree felony counts of tampering with evidence; and one first-degree misdemeanor count of endangering children. He has pleaded not guilty.
• Joshua C. Copeland, 37, of Guysville was indicted on July 18 on seven second-degree felony counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material or performance; three second-degree felony counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor; and one third-degree felony count of having weapons under disability. He has pleaded not guilty.
• Cody L. Prater, 21, of Reynoldsburg, was sentenced on July 23 to four years in prison by Athens County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Lang on seven second-degree felony counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.
Blackburn has said that the indictment of Copeland and Shaw came after the Prosecutor’s Office conducted a search of Adams’ cellphone and other records after executing a search warrant on Adams’ home.
Blackburn has not previously made any connection between Prater and Adams or Copeland or Shaw, however.