A former Downingtown West High School quarterback who preyed on female students when he worked as a janitor at the school was sentenced Friday to 13 to 261/2 years in prison, a term that exceeded the prosecutor's recommendation.
Chester County Court Judge Ronald C. Nagle imposed the penalty on Joseph C. Nicholson, 26, of Downingtown. The judge said he was troubled by the case and the devastating impact it had on so many families.
During the two-hour proceeding, the mother of one of the victims tearfully described her daughter's pain - exacerbated a year and a half ago when she told her father what had happened and he disowned her.
Nagle said he appreciated the fact that Nicholson, a father of two young children, apologized in court to the victims, their families, and his own. During his trial, he deflected blame. He was found guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, and related offenses.
The judge acknowledged that the sentence was harsh. However, he pointed out that involuntary deviate sexual intercourse carries a mandatory sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.
Defense attorney David Clark had argued that that penalty alone was ample punishment, but Assistant District Attorney Christin C. Kubacke, who recommended a 12-to-25-year sentence, said a 10-year penalty would give the defendant "a volume discount" by ignoring two of the victims.
Nagle said he had read numerous letters from Nicholson's supporters, who described the defendant's behavior as shockingly out of character. The judge said he wondered whether they understood the extent of Nicholson's conduct.
Nicholson's mother and sister both addressed the judge, echoing the letters' theme.
"It doesn't fit who my son is. . . . He made one careless mistake," said his mother, Janet Nicholson, asserting that the victims "had a part of it, too."
Her daughter, Christina Nicholson, agreed, suggesting that the girls knew their actions were wrong.
"It doesn't seem right that he's the only one being punished," she said.
Nagle reminded them that the victims were 15.
"This was more than a simple lapse of judgment," the judge said.
Five girls testified about Nicholson's pattern of showering them with attention and compliments before seeking sex with them. The verdict stemmed from his sexual encounters with three victims, two of whom were 15 and the other 16. They are not being identified by The Inquirer because of their ages and the nature of the offenses.