In what Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak called Ohio County's first sexual motivation hearing, Circuit Judge James Mazzone ruled Tuesday that Allen Bledsoe must register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge.
The rare proceeding stems from Bledsoe's arrest in March 2013 on a felony charge of first degree sexual abuse.
The case was resolved in February when Bledsoe, 53, of Wheeling, pleaded guilty to battery, a lesser-included misdemeanor.
Turak and Chief Public De-fender Shayne Welling jointly recommended a plea deal calling for Bledsoe to receive a one-year suspended sentence be-cause of health issues. Mazzone accepted the joint recommendation to suspend a one-year jail sentence because Bledsoe's health maintenance would be a financial burden to the Regional Jail Authority and because he has no previous criminal record.
However, attorneys could not agree on whether Bledsoe should be ordered to register as a sex offender with the State Police for 10 years.
Under state law, any person convicted of a criminal offense must register as a sex offender if the sentencing judge determines the offense was sexually motivated.
Bledsoe admitted that on two occasions he inappropriately touched a 39-year-old mentally challenged victim.
Tuesday's arguments centered around whether Bledsoe's actions were sexually motivated or a result of horseplay coming from an atmosphere of sexual talk that is common among Bledsoe's circle of friends.
At the hearing - which lasted nearly four hours - Turak put three witnesses on the stand to corroborate that Bledsoe touched the victim inappropriately in an elevator at the Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino and Racetrack and again in Bledsoe's van as Bledsoe rode the victim home from a day of work at the gambling facility.
Mazzone ruled Bledsoe must register as a sex offender for 10 years as part of sentencing.