A Marion County judge denied 38-year-old Chris Wheat's petition for a reduced prison sentence Friday after Wheat was convicted of sexual misconduct and child solicitation just last year.
The former Lawrence Township swim coach admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a then 14-year-old girl that he coached. Wheat is said to have a history of sexual misconduct with young swimmers, but has never previously been convicted.
He waived his right to appeal in that agreement, so the victim and her family were stunned when his request for a sentence reduction hearing was granted. However, it was because of a Supreme Court precedent that allowed the hearing to occur.
In court, Wheat told the judge that his 14 months in prison were enough to make him realize the harm he had caused his victim and that he was a changed person as a result of the many months of reflection.
Several of Wheat's family members answered questions on his behalf and said they believed he had undergone a transformation since being incarcerated.
The victim and both of her parents also made statements to the judge, explaining how difficult it was for them to relive the painful memories.
"This hearing makes me feel like the belief and support I had behind Wheat's conviction is being questioned," said the victim.
After two hours, the judge denied Wheat's request for a shorter sentence, telling him regardless if he was a changed person or not, he had still committed a vile crime and he needed to pay for it.
"Judge Orbison got it like she did the first time," said the victim's father. "That's what we hoped and prayed would be the case and it was."
"I just kept thinking about what my daughter was thinking about," said the victim's mother. "Having to see her perpetrator in front of her again was obviously very painful and so my biggest concern was for her and her well-being, and I think she handled herself very well and kept herself composed. I'm very proud of her."
Defense attorney Jim Voyles said Wheat was not going to petition again for a sentence reduction.
Judge denies convicted sexual predator's request for reduced sentence
In court Friday, 38-year-old Chris Wheat asked a judge to set him free, just one year after being sent to prison.