By Margie Wuebker
Two Coldwater men were labeled sexual predators and sentenced to lengthy prison terms Wednesday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court.
Shawn D. Hoening, 37, 401 E. Elizabeth St., was sentenced to 19 years and five months on three counts of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition.
Judge Jeffrey Ingraham imposed consecutive six-year sentences on each of the rape charges, all first-degree felonies, and 17 months on the lone count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony. The state dismissed 11 additional counts of rape during plea negotiations.
Douglas N. Coats, 44, 210 Hillcrest Drive, was sentenced to 12 years on four counts of gross sexual imposition, all third-degree felonies. The actions involved touching the buttocks, breasts and genitals. The state dismissed 10 similar counts during plea negotiations.
Relatives as well as victims or their representatives were present in the courtroom for each proceeding. "The first day I met Shawn he exemplified a very sorry man," defense attorney James Fischer said about Hoening. "He knows what he did was wrong, and he would like to apologize. But how do you say you're sorry after offenses like these?"
Hoening waged an unsuccessful battle to keep his emotions in check while addressing court.
"I would like to apologize for what I did. I hope someday you can forgive me," he said tearfully. He attempted to go on but shook his head and sat down.
Ingraham, who had listened intently, noted it is difficult for someone guilty of such behavior to show remorse.
"That is between you and your victims," the judge added.
No one spoke on behalf or against the defendant. However, Ingraham received a number of letters prior to the proceeding.
The rape charges stem from a case involving a 13-year-old girl. The Coldwater Police Department investigation revealed a series of sexual encounters that began in the winter of 2003-2004. The girl reportedly confided in another person who alerted authorities. The gross sexual imposition charge stems from a second case involving a 14-year-old girl.
Hoening has been incarcerated at the Mercer County Jail since May 23. The time will apply toward his sentence.
Coats sat quietly as attorney Thomas Luth related his client's unblemished history of military service and steady employment.
"Doug was brought here by a series of unfortunate circumstances and all of them were caused by alcohol," he said. "He has sought counseling and will work to keep his problems in the past."
"I apologize to my family for what I have put them through," Coats said quietly. "Forgive me and pray for me."
Kim Topp, a representative for the victims who were between 10 and 16 at the time, did not mince words as she addressed court.
"There is only one place for a person like Mr. Coats and that is a maximum security prison. It is a proven fact that people like him will never get better; they just get smarter about what they do to avoid getting caught," she said.
Fighting for control, Topp continued, "Predators like him need to be off the streets and locked away so they may never hurt another child and devastate another family again."
Donna Coats, wife of the defendant, also prepared a statement that was read by her brother, Eric Stachler. She wrote of her husband's deviant behavior and how the victims lost their childhood innocence as a result of his actions.
One victim reportedly suffered from unexplained medical problems during the period of abuse. People who knew and loved her could not understand why she held a crucifix much of the time.
Coats reportedly threatened the victims they would be taken out of their home and forced to live on welfare if they divulged what had been occurring over the course of more than a year.
Coats has been incarcerated at the Mercer County Jail since June 6. The time will apply toward his sentence.
Upon release from prison, both men have a lifetime commitment to register as sexual predators every 90 days with the county sheriff in the jurisdiction where they reside. In addition, neither will be permitted to reside within 1,000 feet of a school.
They also will be subject to five years of post-release supervision. One-half of the original sentences could be imposed in the event of violations.