Clarence “Fred” Weber was 43 years old, a married man, a father and a professional accountant.
The girls were 14- and 13-year-old middle school students.
Over four months, Weber sent thousands of texts to the teenagers, many of them sexually explicit.
In one month alone, Weber sent 2,000 text messages to a 14-year-old girl — and 1,000 to a 13-year-old girl.
In messages filled with emoticons and the slang of a teen, Weber asked the girls about sex and requested pictures of them in thongs or skimpy clothing. He arranged to meet with the 14-year-old at a park, giving her a $100 gift card and two shirts.
Prosecutors called that classic grooming — and a crime that led to both of the girls cutting themselves.
Weber's attorney, James Martin Davis, called that “victimology,” noting that his client never touched or attempted to sexually assault either girl.
A Douglas County judge called the offense — Weber pleaded guilty to one count of child enticement by electronic device — worthy of probation.
Noting Weber's lack of a criminal record, District Judge Peter Bataillon on Tuesday sentenced Weber to four years of probation. Weber, who spent two days in jail total, had faced up to five years in prison.
Bataillon noted the seedy texts and the consequences for the victims. However, he said, he had to balance that against a sentence that would fit the defendant and his crime.
“I'm not sure what you were thinking,” Bataillon told Weber. “Not only have you injured your life and your professional life, but you've extended it to these girls and their families.”
Weber said he realized how inappropriate his actions were.
“I'd just like to say with all my heart, 100 percent, I'm sorry for what I did,” Weber said. “I know what I did. I understand what I did. I accept responsibility for what I did. If I could go back in time and go back and change, I certainly would do that. ... I broke that trust as a parent.”
Davis said his client has “lost everything.” He said Weber was stripped of his license to be an accountant. Weber's wife filed for divorce. And Weber has suffered the shame of his arrest and conviction.
“He lost his job — a six-figure job at that,” Davis said. “He lost his license to practice accounting. He lost his family... all for dirty words over the Internet.”
Deputy Douglas County Attorney Molly Keane disputed that characterization, noting that Weber's communications were text messages sent directly to the girls' cellphones. She said Weber engaged in the telltale grooming that typically leads to worse behavior.
The now-44-year-old man's texts were the stuff of teenagers — filled with emoticons and emotional cons.
He texted one of the girls joking that he was pretty sure his wife had caught him staring at the girl's buttocks.
In one text he wrote: “Do you hate me :( ”
In another: “... can I please still get ur thong pics :) ”
In still another, he asked a girl how she performed certain sex acts. He also described his own sexual experiences in detail.
Other times, he tried to play the cool middle-aged guy. He once met the 14-year-old in a park, giving her a $100 gift card and two shirts. He added these instructions: Don't smoke pot. And don't tell anyone.
“No smoking in my house,” he wrote in one text, “but ill let you drink responsibly.”
He threatened to reveal the girls' sexual history or alcohol use to their parents if they revealed their communications. At another point, he turned to what he considered a serious matter.
“This is important.....When is ur teacher conference next week...R u doing ok?”
Fact is, the girls have had a hard time dealing with Weber's manipulation, Keane said.
She and prosecutor Brenda Beadle, chief deputy Douglas County attorney, took issue with Davis' assertion that the girls were “engaging in victimology” by blaming all their problems on Weber.
Both girls have been in therapy, prosecutors say. Both have cut themselves. One has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. And they've both dealt with fears that their peers have figured out who they are.
“All of this focus seems to be on the poor defendant,” Keane said. “He's lost his marriage, his job, his family. Well, all of that happened because of the choices he made.
“These girls — they were innocent victims of an older man. The sentence should reflect the damage he's done to them.”
As part of his sentence, Weber must receive a psychological exam to determine whether he has sexual compulsions. He also must register as a sex offender.
Davis called the sentence appropriate. Prosecutors disagreed.
“We're disappointed with the sentence,” Beadle said. “His behavior clearly was escalating. It was classic grooming. He just got caught earlier than most.”
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