BROOKSVILLE — With his voice breaking and tears streaming down his cheeks, Harold Scism told the judge on Friday about a life spent working and caring for others.
Scism talked of faithfully going to church and teaching Sunday school. He led a Christian youth group before he got married. And even after being sent to the Hernando County Jail, Scism said he became one of the leaders of a faith-based program for inmates.
"I have always helped people," said Scism, wiping away the tears with a tissue. "I've never had a problem in my life with anything. I'm not this person that they say I am."
But none of that mattered. Circuit Judge Steve Rushing had no wiggle room: Scism's conviction on a count of sexual battery on a child under age 12 carried a mandatory life prison sentence.
Rushing added to that term another 30 years for nine other counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation for a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl that began at age 11.
"I'm glad to hear that you made such a good impression in jail," Rushing said to Scism. "I hope that you can make the same impact on people in the prison system."
Scism, 47, was arrested in February 2007 after the girl told a man she knew through the Internet about the sexual relationship.
The girl, now 18, told investigators she and Scism had sex three to four times a week and sometimes multiple times a day. At age 14, he impregnated her and took her to Clearwater for an abortion. Scism, who was divorced, told her he loved her and even bought an apparent engagement ring, jurors learned.
In the subsequent investigation, another woman came forward, alleging Scism had a sexual relationship with her, too. The woman, now 20, said it occurred between the ages of 14 and 16.
During the trial, Assistant State Attorney Lisa Herndon said Scism "took these children on as his own sexual toys."
But Dolores Peers, Scism's former wife and the mother of his 11-year-old daughter, told Rushing on Friday that the young women were lying and they had behavioral problems that weren't allowed to be brought up during the trial.
"They have a documented pattern of bad behavior," Peers said. "They were street-tough kids. This was not a fair trial."
The St. Petersburg Times is withholding significant details of the case to protect the identity of the victims.
In an interview with investigators, Scism confessed to the prolonged sexual relationship, providing intimate details that matched the first girl's story. He said he knew it was wrong and tried to stop but couldn't. But he denied any sexual involvement with the second girl.
During the trial, Scism took the witness stand in his own defense and changed his story: He denied everything.
After the sentencing, Herndon said investigative records show Scism provided details about the girl and their relationship that point to his guilt.
"I feel justice was served," she said. "His story was … implausible."
Joel Anderson can be reached at joeland firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.