BUCYRUS — Nicolas Buell, 22, of Galion, was sentenced to 12 years and five months in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to a 16-count indictment in Crawford County Common Pleas Court. Buell’s charges involved importuning and producing and distributing material harmful to a juvenile.
Before hearing sentencing recommendations from assistant prosecutor Ryan Hoovler and defense attorney Adam Stone, Judge Sean Leuthold acknowledged the large group of supporters in the courtroom. He said he had received many cards and letters in support of Buell from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania. He warned the audience that they might be shocked or offended by material described in the arguments, but that it was necessary to create an accurate record of the proceeding.
“I hate looking at this kind of material, I can’t sleep afterward and it changes me as a person,” Leuthold said. “I have to make a balanced decision between punishment for the defendant and what’s appropriate to keep the public safety.”
In asking for a 237 months in prison, Hoovler made an impassioned plea to Leuthold.
“Your Honor, if I read all the evidence in this case everyone in this courtroom would be appalled and offended,” he said. “The only one that wouldn’t be is the defendant and that’s because this behavior is normal to him.
“The victims in this crime are the young girls who are forced to endure horrendous sex acts to manufacture these videos. He searched for and downloaded 150 of these kinds of videos for his own sexual pleasure. In every picture and every video, a child was forced and degraded for his own gratification. It is disgusting, sick and evil.”
Hoovler described how Buell sought what he thought was a 13-year-old girl so he could recreate what he’d watched on the videos. Buell did not realize he was communicating with a police officer.”
Stone spoke on his client’s behalf. Likening Buell to the prodigal son of the Bible. Stone explained that Buell had been given a good life by his parents Pastor Scott and Donna Buell of Crestline.
“He had everything and he squandered it. But his father has forgiven him. We are not asking for any deals. He’s here to take responsibility for what he’s done,” Stone said. “He deserves to be seen as a son, a member of his congregation, something more than what has been played out here in court.”
Leuthold, before he sentenced Buell, talked about being a judge.
“I have learned a lot through the cards and letters I’ve received. I have looked at all the evidence. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Buell’s family and all the good people here today to support this family,” Leuthold said. “The court needs to be open to you so that you can leave here with an understanding of what I must consider when sentencing. Mr. Buell has been active in church, he desired to be of service to his country and community, he is helpful, he is an EMT because he wanted to serve others. That’s all the good I could find. Now I have to look at the bad.”
Leuthold continued: “He was leading two lives, the one I described and then the other that is dark and deep.
“You attempted to lure a 13-year-old girl into meeting you for sex. You tried to entice her by sending her pictures of your genitals. There is this dark, dark side to you, that quite frankly, nobody probably knew about.”
Noting that Stone had done an amazing job preparing his sentence recommendation, Leuthold told the defendant that Stone had done a better job than most any other lawyer could have done.
“You used the analogy of the prodigal son as if to cast me into a certain spot. That was not fair or appropriate. I am not Mr. Buell’s father or his brother. You spoke of mercy and justice. Well, where was the justice for those little girls who were exploited to make these videos, many of them several minutes in length. You drew a line in the sand and asked the question. Let me tell you who the prostitutes were in this story. They were the little girls, some as young as five-years-old, who were exploited and forced to perform. There were obviously adults in the room directing their behavior. I stand on the line that protects these girls,” Leuthold said. “Looking at this material drew back a curtain into the mind and actions of this defendant. In his evaluation, he admitted to the evaluator that he is attracted to girls between the ages of 15 and 17-years-old. Engaging in conduct like that with a 15-year-old girl is a felony.”
Leuthold looked at Buell’s sobbing mother and father and said, “You’re prodigal son will return to you, but not today. He’s going to need a lot of support in ways you probably cannot imagine right now. I urge you to support him.”
With that Buell was sentenced to 12 years and five months. He will receive credit for time served, must forfeit all property confiscated in the investigation and register as a Tier II Sex Offender.
Prosecutor Matt Crall shared his thoughts on the case: “I feel bad for the family, but I must prosecute cases based on conduct, not feelings. This is not a victim-less crime, this happens here, too.”
Crall explained that federal investigators working on human trafficking encountered Buell and worked with the Galion Police Department and his office to bring the charges. According to Crall, the main reason for demanding a long sentence was Buell’s determination to recreate what he had seen on video with who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.