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Molester to serve 9 years in prison

Christopher Lee Allen smiled and joked about his new haircut. He sat between his attorneys and looked almost nonchalant Thursday as he waited in a Pinellas courtroom.

His family, meanwhile, sat behind him, stoney faced or near tears.

All knew what a judge was about to do.

Allen, former outreach director of the St. Petersburg YMCA and now a convicted child molester, was sentenced to nine years in prison followed by 15 years of probation after his conviction last month for molesting an 11-year-old girl.

Allen's sentencing by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley held none of the usual suspense after Allen and prosecutors reached an agreement on his time behind bars.

Allen faced a maximum of 30 years in prison for his two convictions for lewd and lascivious behavior after a two-week trial. He was to be tried on three other charges of lewd and lascivious conduct, for which he could have received another 45 years in prison.

But on Thursday, Allen agreed to plead no contest to two of the remaining charges, and prosecutors agreed to drop the third.

In return, prosecutors recommended that Allen be sentenced to nine years in prison, followed by the probation.

Prosecutor Bill Loughery said the victims in the case agreed to the sentence and didn't want to return to court for a second trial.

The judge agreed, noting the plea allowed the children to "begin the process of healing."

"I have never seen a case with so much pressure on the children," Ley told Allen. "These children were regularly pressured and teased within the community for speaking out."

Allen's probation is stringent. Upon his release, he will have a curfew, undergo sex offender treatment and have no contact with the victims or any other children under age 18, among other requirements.

Allen, 28, said little during the sentencing. But when it came to these restrictions, he said he thought the one about contact with children was a bit ambiguous.

"I understand the spirit behind it," he said. "Obviously, I'm not going to go to a playground. But what if we go somewhere with our family?"

If he visited a restaurant where other children might come with the parents, would he be violating his probation?

Ley had no easy answer, telling him, "You shall expect your life to be extremely curtailed."

Allen hugged his wife, Jennifer, and his parents before bailiffs led him away to jail. His family declined to comment afterward.

Allen mostly worked north of St. Petersburg in low-income neighborhoods, including the French Villas apartment complex, where he helped operate a YMCA outreach program before his May 2000 arrest.

Prosecutors say the environment was perfect for a child molester such as Allen, whom they say fondled or improperly touched at least four children. One of the victims later recanted.