CHAMBERSBURG – Aaron Keith Helman wept with his head in his hands this morning after a Franklin County judge determined that he will be branded a sexually violent predator for the rest of his life.
“I’m not a pedophile,” Helman said several times while his attorney, Matthew Stewart, was explaining the strict Megan’s Law reporting guidelines he’ll have to follow. “I’m not a pervert.”
Helman, 31, Waynesboro, will be required to register with Pennsylvania State Police and be photographed every 90 days after his release from jail. He is also subject to community notifications. Whenever he moves to a new neighborhood, law enforcement will distribute fliers featuring his photo, address and offense.
He was arrested August 20 for having sex with a 15-year-old girl in an alley. A patrolling Waynesboro Police officer spotted Helman running naked through an alley in the 200 block of Park Street. The officer found Helman’s clothes and the girl’s purse left behind.
Today’s court proceedings began at 10 a.m. and were scheduled to include Helman’s sentencing hearing, but Judge Richard Walsh decided at noon that there wasn’t enough time. Sentencing is planned for 9 a.m. Wednesday. Helman remains at Franklin County Jail in the meantime.
According to court records, Helman pleaded guilty March 2 to felonies statutory sexual assault and unlawful contact with a minor.
He was also charged with a more serious felony offense, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse (IDSI) with a child, as well as misdemeanor drug and drug paraphernalia possession. Those charges were not pursued as part of his plea agreement.
Assistant District Attorney Lauren Sulcove said the agreement included a plead-to sentence of between 15 and 30 months in state prison.
At the start, it appeared Monday’s hearing would not happen at all as planned. Stewart told the judge that Helman wanted to withdraw his guilty plea and take the case to trial.
Sulcove said she was prepared to go to trial, and pointed out that the terms of Helman’s plea agreement would be void if he changed his plea to not guilty.
“Today is it. This offer has been on the table for three months,” she said. “Either he proceeds to sentencing today or it is withdrawn.” Walsh asked Sulcove to explain the potential sentence Helman could face if he is convicted.
She said the IDSI charge carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Statutory sexual assault carries a maximum of 10 years, and the drug charges amount to as much as a year and 30 days of incarceration.
When she was finished, Helman started to cry and interrupted what the judge had started to say.
“I’ll take the plea bargain,” Helman said. “I’ll take it.”
Walsh called for a short break so Stewart and Helman could talk privately. When they came back, Helman stated that he did not want to withdraw his guilty plea. The hearing then turned to whether Helman should be designated a sexually violent predator (SVP).
Herbert Hays of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board (SOAB) testified that he evaluated Helman’s case, previous criminal history and other factors. He recommended the SVP designation and suggested that Helman presents a likelihood of re-offending later in his life.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police Megan’s Law website, there are four men registered as SVPs out of jail and living in Franklin County. A person with the designation is determined to have a mental abnormality or disorder that makes them prone to engage in predatory sexual behavior.
The SOAB evaluates people who have been convicted of sex crimes to assist the court in determining whether they meet the legal criteria of sexually violent predators . The designation is ultimately up to the judge presiding over the case.
Helman’s criminal history began when he was 12-years-old, Hays said. His charges over the years include theft and multiple incidents of aggravated assault, including the assault of a police officer for which he was charged as an adult at the age of 16.
He has also been in and out of prison for numerous probation and parole violations. None of Helman’s other convictions involved sexual crimes, but “we don’t know whether he’s had other victims or not,” Hays said.
He concluded that Helman exhibits an anti-social personality disorder, a lifetime condition for which there is no cure. Hays said the disorder makes Helman a risk for committing another sexual crime in the future.
“This is someone who has a blatant disregard for the rights of others,” Hays said. “He’s going to do what he wants, when he wants to do it with no regard for other people.”
Helman testified in his own defense, acknowledging that he had sex with the girl, but claiming that he did not know her age at the time.
“I had no clue,” he said. “I didn’t even know she was 15-years-old until I was in my jail cell.”
He described meeting the girl, a few hours before they had sex, while he was walking to a bar in Waynesboro. He said she asked for his phone number and sent him a text message later, inviting him to visit her home where she lived with her parents.
Helman said he went there and met members of the girl’s family. He recalled her asking her mother’s permission to walk their dog around the block with him. It was about midnight when the girl’s mother sent them to the store to buy her cigarettes.
On the walk back, the girl suggested they go into the alley where the sexual encounter happened, Helman said.