By Keith Gushard
Whether a Meadville-area man convicted of more than 70 sexual molestation counts involving a young boy for two and one-half years is a sexually violent predator will be decided later this month by the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.
President Judge Anthony Vardaro said Thursday he will rule whether Chad W. Leonhart, 40, is a sexually violent predator before he sentences Leonhart on Oct. 22. Vardaro’s announcement from the bench followed an hour-long evidentiary hearing on whether to declare Leonhart a sexually violent predator.
The case has been called one of the most extensive child molestation cases within the county in the last two decades by Paula DiGiacomo, first assistant district attorney, who handled prosecution of Leonhart. DiGiacomo has been a prosecutor with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office for almost 19 years.
In May, Leonhart was found guilty in a jury trial in county court of 53 counts of indecent assault; 24 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse; and one count each of corruption of minors, unlawful contact with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child.
Leonhart was convicted of assaulting the boy at various times between September 2009 and May 17, 2012, at locations in Saegertown, Hayfield Township and Meadville.
At Thursday’s hearing, Molly Wagner, a licensed social worker who serves on the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, testified Leonhart met the criteria to be considered a sexually violent predator based on the diagnosis being a pedophile.
Leonhart chose not to participate in the assessment, Wagner testified.
Wagner said her diagnosis was based on numerous reports in connection with the case, including court transcripts from the preliminary hearing and court trial; police reports; and a presentence report investigation.
For her diagnosis, Wagner cited Leonhart’s 29 year age difference between himself and the victim; Leonhart coercing the victim into playing sexual games; Leonhart telling the victim not to tell anyone about their activities together; and Leonhart telling the victim if the victim’s mother found out, the mother would leave Leonhart ending their friendship. Wagner said the victim had indicated Leonhart was considered the boy’s best friend before the incidents began.
Leonhart is facing at least a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, though the maximum sentence hasn’t been determined yet as some of the multiple counts of the same charge may merge at the time of sentencing later this month.
Leonhart remains lodged in the Crawford County jail in lieu of $100,000 bond.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.