Court upholds jail term for convicted sex abuser

Mill Creek man sentenced to 37 to 150 years for raping children

By Phil Ray

The conviction and lengthy prison sentence doled out to a Huntingdon County man accused of sexually abusing two children beginning when they were 8 years old has been upheld by the Penn­sylvania Super­ior Court.

James William Lewis of Mill Creek did not deny that he had sexually abused the children, but argued in an appeal brought in January that the evidence against him was insufficient for conviction because his sexual contact “was entirely for educational purposes, not for pleasure.”

Lewis, through his Hun­tingdon County attorney, Christopher B. Wen­cker, argued that “sexual intercourse, to be a crime, must be for procreation or pleasure.”

The defense argued that Lewis was attempting to educate the children about sex, even at a very young age.

“This argument is without merit. Nothing in the crimes code relating to sexual intercourse states the accused must perform the acts for pleasure or sexual gratification,” according to a Superior Court opinion written by Judge Deborah A. Kunselman.

The panel that rejected the argument also included judges Judith Olson and John L. Musmanno.

The opinion was filed Thursday in Superior Court.

A Huntingdon County jury took less than an hour last year to find Lewis guilty of 12 charges that included involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, rape of both children, indecent assault and statutory sexual assault.

In December, Huntingdon County Judge George N. Zanic sentenced the 62-year-old to a state prison term of 37 to 150 years, a sentence that Huntingdon County Assis­tant District Attorney Julia Wilt indicated means he will “probably never see the light of day.”

Wilt said both child victims are now adults and stated, “they are good people who turned out pretty well.”

The sexual abuse came out when one of the victims was undergoing counseling.

The offenses fell within the state statute of limitations for offenses against children.

State police investigators obtained permission from one of the victims to monitor a telephone conversation between him and Lewis, in which he “spelled it all out for us,” Wilt stated.

She called the case “biz­arre” because Lewis insisted that he was only trying to ed­ucate the children about sex.

“We were pleased with the verdict and pleased with the sentence,” Wilt stated.

She summed up her feelings about the case stating, “it was absolutely horrid.”

The defense can request a Supreme Court review of the decision.

The appeals court re­viewed the sentence and opinion written by Zanic in which he listed an extensive finding of facts.

For instance, the judge found that Lewis told one of the victims that if the child didn’t allow him to perform sexual acts, then, “You don’t love me.”

The abuse ended when one of the children refused to participate any further.

The judge also stated Lewis blamed one of the victims for initiating contact.

“The trial court concluded that the evidence was not only sufficient, it was overwhelming,” according to the Superior Court opinion.

“The victims’ testimony was sufficient on its own to convict Lewis, and was bolstered by Lewis’ own brazen admissions and lack of denial,” the court stated.

Lewis is incarcerated at the State Correctional Institu­tion at Houtzdale.