ASHLAND -- An Ashland County case that gained national notoriety early in the COVID-19 pandemic concluded Monday morning with a virtual sentencing hearing.
Ashland County Common Pleas Court Judge Ron Forstoefel sentenced Seth Whited, of Crestline, to six months in the Ashland County Jail and four years of community control sanctions for a child endangerment charge from late 2018 and another charge from early 2019.
A jury found him guilty of third-degree felony Endangering Children, and fifth-degree felony Unauthorized Use of Computer, Cable, or Telecommunication Property in late September after a four-day trial, which was delayed six times.
The case attracted national attention in late April when Whited’s trial started, but was abruptly stopped after he was transported to the hospital for what the court called a “panic attack” and tested positive for COVID-19.
More recently, the trial was delayed in June when Whired terminated his former lawyer, attorney Adam Stone. Attorney Dean Henry of Tiffin replaced Stone as Whited’s legal counsel.
“As much, Mr. Whited, as you aggravated me in the course of getting this trial done, I cannot use that as a sentencing factor and in fact this court has to rely upon the statutory factors and your (recidivism) score,” Judge Forstoefel said.
The judge said he considered how Whited has a low risk of recidivism and no prior criminal history, but determined there needed to be “some accountability in a case of this type.”
The Endangering Children charge stems from a November 2018 report to the Ashland County Department of Job and Family Services that Whited physically abused a 15-month-old child. Specifically, Whited held the child under water, leaving bruising to the child's face and forehead, in retaliation for the child soiling himself, Assistant Ashland County Prosecuting Attorney Victor Perez said.
The Unauthorized Use of Computer, Cable, or Telecommunications Property charge, of which he was found guilty, stems from a January 2019 incident when Whited gained unauthorized access to Ashland City School District computers in an effort to retaliate against the child's mother, then an employee of the district.
Judge Forstoefel ultimately imposed the six-month sentence and four years of community control with a requirement that Whited pay restitution of $1,710.09 to the victim’s family and $3,500 to the Ashland City School District.
During the four years of community control sanctions, Whited is to complete an anger management program and 25 hours of community service. He is also to follow a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. while monitored, only leaving his house for work or another approved reason during this time period.
For the first two years, he may not use, possess or otherwise access any electronic device that has access to the internet or any social media.
“You need a phone? You get a dumb phone. It's not going to be a smart phone. It shouldn't have capability of wifi connection,” Forstoefel said.
Perez suggested a 30-month jail sentence for the child endangerment charge and another six months for the other charge.
“This conduct should not be tolerated, judge. And in my opinion, he should do a month for every second (the baby) was submerged and a month for every month Landon was alive at that time,” he said.
Whited’s attorney, Henry, characterized Whited as an ideal candidate for control sanctions.
If Whited wishes to appeal, he must do so within 30 days after his sentence is recorded.