By Jane Smith
In what appears to be the worst child molestation case in Crawford County history, a 28-year-old Meadville man has been punished with up to 66 years behind bars for victimizing three youngsters.
Defendant David T. Cook stood with his head bowed Friday as he was sentenced by Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge Gordon R. Miller on 14 different counts involving two boys, ages 7 and 9, and a girl, age 5.
Cook pleaded guilty in April to six counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, two counts of rape, three counts of criminal attempt to commit rape, two counts of criminal solicitation and one count of indecent assault.
It’s believed to be the county’s worst case of sexual abuse against children, based on the number of victims and the multiple charges. After pleading guilty to 14 charges, Cook had 85 other counts dropped.
Cook, who was sentenced to pay costs and spend a minimum of 33 years in state prison, will receive credit for 352 days he has served in the county jail since his arrest by Meadville police. No fine was imposed.
Crawford County Public Defender Robert Trambley told the judge that Cook had an eighth-grade education and had been sexually abused in the past. Trambley said Cook had been with the three children he sexually abused and their mother for six years. He said that during that time Cook served as a father to the children without incident until the sexual abuse took place.
Attending a family reunion apparently triggered Cook to molest the kids, according to Trambley. Previous testimony indicated that Cook had never molested anybody until after the reunion. As the family gathered for a photograph at the reunion, a family member put his arm around Cook. That somehow triggered Cook to think of the sexual abuse he suffered. When Cook returned home, he started molesting the children.
“He did not have an education to realize he should have sought out help for his abuse,” said Trambley. “If he had sought out help we may not have been here.” Trambley also noted there was no “unusual cruelty” in Cook’s actions. He asked the court to consider both parties involved, Cook and the victims.
Crawford County Assistant District Attorney Paula DiGiacomo described Cook’s actions as “the most heinous, horrific case of child abuse I have seen,” referring to her 13 years in the district attorney’s office.
She reviewed the history of the offenses, noting they occurred over a six-month period when Cook “repeatedly raped and forced” the children to commit sex acts. She argued that aggravating circumstances included the fact that Cook was thought of as a father by the children.
DiGiacomo noted that after the mother walked in on the defendant committing a sexual act with the girl, she alerted police and Cook admitted to the molestation.
The assistant district attorney described the acts performed in detail, noting one of the victimized children reported the incidents occurred when his mother wasn’t home. The child also told her about Cook making him watch movies in which sex acts were portrayed and making the children perform similar actions.
Although there were no sadistic actions, such as tying the children up, “they did feel pain,” DiGiacomo said, adding that it wasn’t just touching.
“We are seeking consecutive (sentences),” she told the court. “Justice demands it; the defendant’s actions demand it.”
She said nothing is going to cure the broken hearts of the children as they endured fear and pain.
Asked by the judge if he had any comment, Cook softly replied, “No, sir.”
Miller said his chief concern with sentencing was the public’s safety. “Fewer acts or crimes are worse than these,” he added. He told Cook that he also had to think of the safety of the young victims. “He committed serious sex acts over a long period of time,” said Miller, noting those children were under his care.
“The children have suffered severely as a result of his sex acts,” the judge continued. The acts were for Cook’s “selfish, sex desires” and the children have been significantly harmed, he said. “The children must know the defendant will not be accessible to them for many years,” he concluded.
Miller’s sentence was a combination of concurrent and consecutive terms. Had they all been consecutive, Cook could have received 425 years in prison and a fine of $325,000.
Cook received concurrent sentences for:
n Three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
n The second set of three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.
n Two counts of rape.
n Two counts of criminal solicitation, stemming from an incident in which he solicited the children to perform sex acts with each other.
n Three counts of criminal attempts to commit rape.
n One count of indecent assault.
Each of the concurrent sentences was consecutive to the others.
Jane Smith can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
By Jane Smith