A 48-year-old Westminster man pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of child abuse for sexually molesting the daughter of a family friend from 1978 to 1984.
Joseph George Bahner, of the 2600 block of Neudecker Road, entered the plea after prosecutors agreed to drop 12 other charges against him and to recommend a jail sentence of no more than three years, with two years suspended.
While Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. agreed with the deal, he gave Bahner the right to withdraw his plea and demand a jury trial if the judge decides to impose a heavier jail sentence than that recommended by prosecutors.
Bahner was arrested in November 1992 after a Carroll County grand jury returned a 13-count criminal indictment against him alleging sexual abuse. According to court records, Bahner often took care of the girl while his wife and the girl's mother went to work. It was during those times that Bahner fondled the girl, court records said.
The girl, now a 21-year-old college student, told police of the abuse last summer. State police investigators asked her to telephone Bahner, and she agreed to having the conversation tape-recorded. The recorded July 14 call was the first time child abuse investigators in Carroll had used the technique.
The transcript of that conversation was entered into the casrecord yesterday:
"I was the only one you ever did this to?" she asked.
"Well, why, why, why me?"
"OK, uh, I, for whatever reasons, uh, the things we, uh, I guess it was acceptable to you."
"It was acceptable to me? I was 10, 8, all the way till I was almost 13."
Bahner was originally indicted on seven counts of second-degree sexual offense and five counts of third-degree sexual offense and the one count of child abuse. Had he been convicted on all 13 counts, he would have faced a sentence of more than 200 years.
Bahner was a Boy Scout troop leader before his arrest. Investigators found no improprieties in Bahner's dealings with members of his troop.
Defense attorney J. Barry Hughes asked Judge Burns to defer sentencing until Sept. 15 to give Bahner a chance to continue in psychological counseling.
The arrest on abuse charges has taken a toll on the defendant, Mr. Barry told the judge, including a recent suicide attempt.