Reading from a sheet of yellow legal paper,Robert Miller, 37, Savannah, Ohio, apologized Monday for the "problems" and "damages" he caused a young girl and her family.
The apology came during Miller's criminal sentencing at Huron County Common Pleas Court, where he pleaded guilty to one count of gross sexual imposition. He had faced three counts.
But an apology wasn't enough in the eyes of the law.
During the course of a five-year relationship with the little girl, Miller sexually touched the girl and claimed he fell for her romantically, according to Huron County assistant prosecutor Dina Shenker.
"The defendant went on to send the victim a poem where he admitted that he was in love with her. Here are the final words of the poem: 'If you ever meet a girl who takes your breath away, you'll understand the joy I found with my sweet, sweet (victim's name),'" Shenker said. "He's talking about a 10-year-old girl ... who this man had a sexual fantasy (about) and in his mind a sexual relationship with."
The relationship began when the girl was 5 years old. Miller wasn't arrested on charges of gross sexual imposition until she was 10.
By then the relationship had evolved into something disturbing. The worst incident took place when she was 10 and he was in his mid-30s. He touched her inappropriately, then went home and stimulated himself while looking at a picture of her, authorities said.
Miller gained the trust of the family using his natural "boyish charm," Shenker said. For years they did not see the sinister truth underlying the relationship.
When the girl's parents grew suspicious, they confronted Miller. He confessed to touching her genitals and helping her disrobe, Shenker said.
Miller's attorney, Reese Wineman, does not dispute that his client is sick. But Wineman argued Monday that incarceration would do his client no good. Instead of prison, Wineman urged Judge James Conway to consider rehabilitation and sentence his client to a sex-offender treatment program.
"He realizes this behavior was sick. ... But I can't sit here and have Robert identified as some ongoing pedophile. That's not true. He had an attraction for this young girl, and he understands how wrong that was, but ... (experts concluded) he was a very unlikely individual to re-offend," Wineman said.
Addressing the court, Miller pleaded with Conway to grant him the counseling he needs to make better decisions.
Conway, however, wasn't sold on the idea of rehabilitation alone.
"The court would note that ... despite Mr. Wineman's protestations otherwise, the defendant does appear to be a pedophile, and there is a significant risk he will re-offend," Conway said. "The defendant spent substantial time grooming the victim and taking advantage of (her)."
The judge sentenced him to the full four-year prison term requested by the prosecution. He will also be required to register as a Tier-2 sex offender.
Miller will not be allowed to continue working as a licensed massage therapist.