CLEARFIELD – If the jury foreman in the Frederick St. John case were to have read the verdict for each count, those who attended a three-day trial for a man accused of rape and other counts would have heard “guilty” 647 times.
The jury spent a little over two hours in deliberation to decide whether the 48-year-old Morrisdale man was guilty of 194 counts of rape, along with 143 other sex-related crimes.
St. John showed no emotion when the verdicts were read at about 7 p.m. Friday, looking straight ahead and not at the jury.
For the rape charges alone, Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. said St. John could be sentenced to a minimum of 48 months in jail for each count. The maximum for each is 20 years. Realistically, though, Shaw said St. John will be sentenced to serve 15 to 20 years in jail or a maximum of 30 to 40 years.
Before the day comes to be sentenced, St. John will be assessed to determine whether he can be classified as a sexually violent predator under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law, a designation that would require him to register with law enforcement quarterly. Upon his release, his whereabouts would be reported to neighbors, schools and others.
“This will hopefully preclude other people from being victimized,” Shaw said of the commonwealth’s hope in obtaining the designation.
The charges were filed after St. John molested a then-girl over a period of about three years.
She said St. John forced her to take part in various sexual acts in Clearfield County and elsewhere. The trial focused only on events that happened in Clearfield County.
St. John took the stand in his own defense before the trial ended, explaining letters presented to the jury that he wrote to his wife and a family friend.
One of the letters said: “I’m not saying we did not do things, but I did not rape her.” Another: “I am so embarrassed about what we were doing.”
St. John explained the letters saying the “we” mentioned in them was not himself and the victim in the case but he and his wife.
At times, St. John was in tears while reading those letters.
“How the hell do you defend yourself?” he asked. “It’s her word against mine.”
A key to the commonwealth’s case was DNA in the form of semen found on a paper towel, a pair of jeans and a bed sheet. On the sheet, the victim’s DNA was mixed in with the sample.
“What they couldn’t overcome was the DNA on the fitted bed sheet had his sperm … plus it was a mixture, it had his sperm and her DNA,” said Shaw after the close of the trial.
“These kind of cases the most difficult cases to prosecute,” Shaw added. “This case was the most heavily defended case I’ve ever been involved in.”
Defense attorney Chris Pentz moved several times for a mistrial due to evidence he said was not presented to him before trial. Shaw said the evidence was not in the possession of the commonwealth and Pentz could have subpoenaed the evidence as well. A previous trial on the same charges was declared a mistrial because a juror was found to know the victim.
“We fought tooth and nail over every single issue.”
Shaw commended the work of the state police in collecting evidence in the case, saying that the outcome might not have been the same without the DNA evidence and the letters used in the case.
“It was a great day in Clearfield County today.”
Shaw said that despite the evidence presented, he believes there will be an appeal. “That doesn’t mean it will have any merit or will go anywhere, but that’s just part of the process.”