HOLLIDAYSBURG - Former Altoona police officer Herrick "Rick" Johnson stood head-to-head with his wife and began to cry Friday night after he was sentenced to state prison for having a sexual affair with a troubled Indiana teenager he was supposed to be mentoring.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva sentenced Johnson to 18 to 48 months in prison.
She refused a request by his attorney, R. Thomas Forr, to give him two weeks to wrap up his affairs before beginning the sentence.
That led to the emotional goodbye between Johnson and his wife, Judy, who earlier told the judge that she had forgiven him for his indiscretions with the 16-year-old Dyer, Ind., girl, who had a history of mental illness and family problems.
"He's weak like all of us. He's a good man. He failed. We all fail," she said of the ex-officer who spent 22 years with the Altoona Police Department.
''I don't think I have ever been in a courtroom with so much pain,'' Kopriva said after hearing the girl's father plead with the judge to give him and his wife time to counsel their daughter, who remains obsessed with Johnson, 50.
He told the judge that his daughter is planning to move to Altoona and have children with Johnson when she turns 18.
The father said Johnson, who was under a no-contact order from Indiana courts to stay away from the girl, ''thumbed his nose at us and the law'' by repeatedly contacting the teen through text messages.
He said he fears his daughter will be affected for the rest of her life.
Deputy Attorney General J. Kenneth Brown described the former officer as arrogant, having relations with the girl in his Altoona home, as well as in two hotels on the road between Indiana and Altoona.
''He's arrogant enough he's not going to stop. The arrogance continues to this very day,'' Brown said as he asked for a prison sentence to keep Johnson away from the teen.
Brown said Johnson had yet to acknowledge the warrant for his arrest issued in Indiana in early January.
Friday was initially to be a bail revocation hearing because of Johnson's repeated violations of an Indiana protection order, but all parties at the hearing decided that he should be sentenced on charges of child endangerment and corruption of a minor, to which he entered guilty pleas in December.
His sentencing was to be next week.
''I am so sorry,'' said Johnson as he turned to the girl's father. He said he was not arrogant, but a fallen man.
Johnson's pastor, Tyler W. Pepper, and psychologist James Brady have been counseling Johnson, and they both said he was remorseful.
''I beg mercy,'' said Johnson, adding that if he was placed on probation, he would no longer contact the girl. ''It will stay stopped. ... Please, please."
Johnson met the teen through the Internet. She was a member of a group of teens considering law enforcement as a career.
She eventually confided in him about her problems, and Johnson decided to step into her life to help her, the judge said. Kopriva said what started out as helping her became predatory behavior.
She told Johnson that he allowed what became his obsession to ''crush your world.''
''You're sorry it happened. That's not the point. Where's the thinking before you commit the crime?'' Kopriva asked.
She called the jail sentence ''a tough wakeup call."
Johnson acknowledged that he hurt the Indiana family and his own family. He lost his job and he and his wife have lost friends.
''Thank God we have each other,'' he said.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.