FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A former Fairfield High School guidance counselor and coach has been sent to prison for having sex with a student.
Craig Harden, 43, of Liberty Twp., pleaded guilty to sexual battery, a third-degree felony, on Nov. 1, days after his arrest. He was taken into custody and has been housed in the Butler County Jail awaiting sentencing.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard sentenced Harden to 3 1/2 years in prison Wednesday. He faced a maximum of five years. He was also declared a Tier III sexual oriented offender, meaning he will have to register his residence every 90 days for the rest of his life.
The teen victim, 15 at the time of the offense, was in the courtroom and cried when Harden was brought into the courtroom with the other inmates in shackles and handcuffs, the Journal-News reported. The family left without comment.
Before sentencing, Harden apologized. “I feel horrible,” he said to the judge. “I am disappointed in myself. I pray for healing a some point.”
Howard told Harden, “I don’t understand it, you took advantage of this child.”
The judge noted that Harden is married with children, but yet, according to a pre-sentencing report, touched other students on the “butt” and made inappropriate comments.
Howard said Harden indicating that the death of his father and an issue with his mother having a psychological effect on him, “makes no sense to me.”
The judge added, “It also makes no sense to me that other female students come to you with the purposes of counseling and you ended up touching their butts or giving them hugs and telling them they were beautiful.”
According to Fairfield police, Harden began his relationship with the victim at the beginning of September, and it was ongoing until school administrators received allegations of the relationship.
Fairfield police detectives received a call from school administrators about the alleged inappropriate relationship and began an investigation.
Harden was interviewed by detectives and confessed.
“Mr. Harden told me that he did in fact have sexual intercourse with the known underage victim on two separate occasions at her home,” according to a police report by Officer Aaron Meyer. “Mr. Harden told me that the two became close in the late summer months of 2017.”
Harden, in addition to counseling duties, was an assistant coach for the Fairfield High School girls basketball team and coached the girls golf team.
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