A former Cuyahoga Falls police officer is to be released from prison after serving about seven months of a two-year sentence
Lewis Watson, 28, was sentenced in October after sexually assaulting a woman at a bar. At the judicial release hearing Monday, Watson once more apologized to the victim, who was 23 at the time of the incident. The judicial release hearing was held via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"My actions were thoughtless and I will spent a lifetime making up for it," Watson said.
He continued, addressing his comments to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones, "I am not a danger to anyone, I will not reoffend. Please allow me the chance to prove that to you."
Watson is being held in the Toledo Correctional Institution.
He pleaded guilty in August 2019 to sexual battery, a third-degree felony, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a more serious rape charge.
Jones said during sentencing she would consider judicial release for Watson after he served six months.
Prosecutors say Watson assaulted the woman, whom he met through a friend while they were at a bar, on June 21, 2018, at Watson’s East Hunter Lake Drive apartment. He was not on-duty at the time.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Watson was immediately placed on administrative leave and later resigned.
Assistant Summit County prosecutor Seema Misra said the victim did not wish to speak during the hearing.
Misra argued that Watson had not served enough time for his crime.
"Two years is an appropriate length of time for him to serve," she said.
Watson’s attorney, Jeff Laybourne, noted Misra was not the original prosecutor on the case and said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson did not have the same access to resources and learning that the prisons previously had provided.
Watson was ordered to serve five years on probation. He must also register as a Tier III sex offender. He must register in-person at the county sheriff’s office every 90 days for the rest of his life.
He must also undergo a mental health and substance abuse evaluation.
Laybourne noted he will have limited job prospects with the felony conviction and the sex offender registration.
A status hearing on the release is set for June 15 at 2 p.m.
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at email@example.com or @Eileen_McClory.