AUBURN — A former West Genesee Central School District board of education member will spend the next six months in jail for attempting to have sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl in Cayuga County.
James M. Soper, 46, of 4011 W. Langerwood Lane, Syracuse, was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail and 10 years probation for second-degree attempted criminal sex act, a class E felony. Soper had pleaded guilty to the reduced charge in May and was expected to receive no worse than two years in prison and 10 years post-release supervision.
Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said Soper was arrested in October 2017 in a "to catch a predator situation." At the time, Budelmann said, Soper had agreed to meet what he thought was a 12-year-old girl for oral sex in the town of Aurelius; however, it turned out to be a state trooper.
Soper was initially charged with first-degree attempted criminal sex act and first-degree attempted disseminating indecent material to a minor. Shortly after his arrest, he was released from jail on $5,000 cash bail and resigned from the board of education at West Genesee Central School District. Soper's term was supposed to run through June 30, 2020.
On Thursday, Soper's defense attorney, Michael Vavonese, said Soper had led "an unblemished life" prior to the fall offense. He discussed Soper's volunteer efforts with church groups in the community and said his client had accepted full responsibility for the crime.
"He has already been punished ... by the embarrassment he's brought to himself," Vavonese said. "He stands before you punished and broken for these acts."
Soper then stood and read from a statement he'd prepared for the court, and he explained he was "not thinking as he normally would have" when he arranged the meeting last fall. He said much of his behavior was due to a combination of anxiety medication and a failing marriage.
"I am deeply sorry ... and it will not happen again," he said.
In response, Judge Thomas Leone said he was "starting to get angry" with Soper's excuses, and pointed out that medication and marital problems "don't make people attempt the abuse of a child." However, he acknowledged Soper's lack of criminal history and the fact that the Onondaga and Cayuga County probation department's both recommended a term of shock probation.
"If anyone has had a fall from grace it's been you," Leone said.
Soper was ordered to begin serving his time immediately and was remanded to Cayuga County Jail. He will have to register as a sex offender before his release.
Also in court
• A Genoa man who was sentenced to prison Thursday said he felt lucky to be alive and it was all due to his probation officer in Cayuga County.
Brian Swan, 31, of 1244 Route 34, was arrested in May and charged with several felonies for possessing drugs and drug paraphernalia. At the time, Swan's probation officer, Nicholas Flanigan, had made a surprise visit at his home and found methamphetamine, scales and plastic baggies spread throughout his room.
In June, Swan pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony. During his plea, he said he possessed more than 1/8 of an ounce of meth, some of which he intended to sell to support his own addiction.
At his sentencing Thursday, Swan thanked Flanigan for stepping in and said he was grateful to be clean and sober.
"I was going down the wrong path," Swan said. "My probation officer probably saved my life. ... He gave me a second chance."
A second felony offender, Swan was previously convicted of third-degree attempted burglary in 2014. He was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison and two years post-release supervision with a shock camp order. That order would allow him to serve the majority of his time as parole supervision while receiving substance abuse treatment.
• An Auburn man was sentenced Thursday for possessing crack cocaine and giving officers a fake name in an attempt to evade a six-year-old warrant for his arrest.
Last August, Paul Bovee, 30, of 114 Norris Ave., was arrested for providing a false identity to police. At the time, the Auburn Police Department had been called to his home for reports of shots fired, but it turned out to be fireworks.
Bovee was initially charged with false personation, a class B misdemeanor. However, upon his arrest, officers found roughly 7 grams of crack cocaine in his pocket, and he was charged with two felonies.
In June, Bovee pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony, and false personation. And on Thursday, he was sentenced to three years in prison and one year post-release supervision. He also received a shock camp order so he could receive substance abuse treatment while serving most of his sentence on parole.
• A Locke man was sentenced to probation Thursday for selling methamphetamine to support his own addiction.
Vincent Goyette, 20, of 4464 Doolittle Road, pleaded guilty last month to one count of fifth-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, a class D felony. During his plea, he admitted to selling meth to an undercover officer in October.
On Thursday, Goyette was sentenced to five years probation with time served. He was ordered to be released from Cayuga County Jail, where he'd been incarcerated for approximately five months. He was also ordered to pay $110 in restitution and to successfully complete alternative treatment court.