NEW PORT RICHEY — Richard Michaelis is 71 and has been in the county jail for nearly a year. Thin, handcuffed, wearing an orange and white uniform, he shuffled to a podium in front of Circuit Judge Mary Handsel Friday morning.
"I found the Lord," he said. "I'm depending on God's mercy to get me through this."
He was there to accept a deal from the state and plead guilty to impregnating a 14-year-old girl. He will spend 20 years in prison and be registered as a sexual predator.
The girl is now 15. Michaelis wrote a sex contract that he made her sign.
The document had a section titled "nullification of contract terms" where, if the teen violated their agreement, Michaelis had the "right to use victim's body at his discretion," a police report stated.
Michaelis, who once directed community theater plays in New Port Richey and Spring Hill, admitted to writing the contract and said "he was using it as a threat to keep her out of trouble and having sexual encounters with other teenagers," the report stated.
He told police the teen was the one who instigated their sexual encounters.
On Friday, Michaelis was contrite. "I wanted her to turn me in. I wanted to go to jail," he said. "I belong in jail."
He said he decided to accept the state's offer because he wanted to spare the girl from having to testify at a trial. His guilty plea includes two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. He cannot have any future contact with the victim.
He said demons made him molest her.
"Sir, I appreciate the fact that you've found God in jail," Handsel said, "but reading the probable cause affidavit, it says that you put (the victim) through much."
"Yes," he said. "I agree"
"And that whatever makes you feel better is fine but that — " she said.
" — doesn't help her," he interjected.
"Everywhere in the Bible it says you must pay for the things that you do," Handsel said.
"So you can make yourself feel better by saying that you have demons inside you that are now gone." But what he did to the girl, she said, was wrong.
"Maybe in her long life, with some counseling she can forgive you," Handsel said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.