HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - A social worker who admits to having sex with three teenage boys being held at the Butler County Juvenile Rehabilitation Center will spend the next 90 days in jail, a sentence that delighted her defense team.
34-year-old Amber Marie Harris of Fairfield cried throughout much of her time in court Tuesday morning. She pleaded guilty over the summer to two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and one count of sexual battery, a story FOX19 broke in August. At the time of the crimes, in 2011, Harris was a part-time "youth leader." She had sex with the boys while they were on "home passes," according to the facility's director, Rob Clevenger. A member of Harris' defense team tells FOX19 at least one of the boys had sex with Harris at her home.
"I know what I did was wrong," she told Judge Charles L. Pater at her sentencing hearing Tuesday. She said she's come to believe that the boys "developed emotions for me," something that makes her feel particularly bad because she admits she was just being "selfish."
But defense attorney Mark Krumbein of Cincinnati told Judge Pater that there are mitigating circumstances to consider. Harris claims she was in an abusive marriage at the time. Krumbein compared her situation to someone suffering from battered wife syndrome. He said she's been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and is addicted to drugs. He urged the judge to send her into drug treatment and only send her to county jail --- not state prison --- if he felt he had to incarcerate her at all.
He also revealed that Harris had given birth to a baby only a few weeks ago.
Then, in a stream-of-consciousness monologue that went on for several minutes, Judge Pater went over the pros and cons of treating Harris differently than a man who'd had sex with teenage girls.
"We snicker about this stuff," Judge Pater said at one point, after reflecting on the stereotypical view that a boy is often ready for sex with an adult earlier than most girls.
In the end, he sentenced Harris to 90 days in the county jail and ordered her to complete drug treatment. If she doesn't, or if she commits another crime in the next five years, he said he'll send her to prison. Harris will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life because she's considered a tier three offender, due to the fact that she was in a position of authority over the boys, which resulted in the sexual battery charge.
"She was looking at many, many years in prison as a potential sentence," Krumbein told FOX19 outside the courtroom. "And what we really appreciate, on behalf of my client, is the fact that Judge Pater carefully considered all of the evidence and also considered her background."
Asked by FOX19 about the paternity of Harris' newborn baby, Krumbein said the father is Harris' fiancé, a man around her age --- not one of the victims in the case.
At the end of the hearing, the judge asked a deputy to take Harris into custody. The deputy went to the podium where Harris was standing and put gold-colored handcuffs on her wrists. He then directed her to the jury box, where she sat, sobbing.