BROOKSVILLE — A Brooksville man who prosecutors said used two young girls as "sex toys" will spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury convicted him on a dozen sex charges.
The guilty verdict against Harold "Harry" Scism came Thursday evening after a four-day trial and more than five hours of deliberations.
The victims began to cry and clenched hands as they heard the verdict read aloud. Scism looked straight ahead without emotion.
At trial, the jury heard how authorities arrested Scism in February 2007 for a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl that began at age 11. The allegations came to light after the girl told a man she knew through the Internet.
The girl, now 18, told investigators they 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.
"He took these children on as his own sexual toys," said Assistant State Attorney Lisa Herndon in her closing argument.
Scism, a self-employed landscaper, faced nine counts of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation for the five-year sexual relationship and two additional counts of sexual battery for sex acts with the older woman.
The first count — sexual battery on a child under age 12 — carries a mandatory lifelong prison sentence. But Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing postponed a formal sentencing hearing until next month.
The Times is withholding significant details of the trial 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 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.
Earlier in the week, Scism took the witness stand in his own defense and changed his story. This time he denied everything.
His defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Devon Sharkey, closed his case pointing jurors to the lack of physical evidence to prove the girls' claims. He said detectives found no DNA linking his client to the girls.
Sharkey said the girls concocted the story to hurt his client, who made admissions only under pressure. "This isn't a guilty man talking," he said. "It is a desperate man talking."
But in her final remarks, the prosecutor led the six-member jury through a transcript of his confession.
"That is the voice of a man admitting (to the crimes) and what you heard yesterday was a man lying to save himself," Herndon said. These charges "are just a drop in the bucket for what he did to (the girls)."
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.