WEST CHESTER – The former Pennsylvania state trooper convicted of sexually abusing a pre-teen girl for several years while dating her mother and acting as a “father figure” to the family has been sentenced to more than four decades behind bars.
On Wednesday, Common Pleas Judge Alita Rovito sentenced Darren Lawrence to 42 to 86 years in state prison after hearing the victim in the case ask him not to allow his attacker to walk free and pose a danger to others.
“The impact of these crimes on the victim and on society at large cannot be overstated,” Assistant District Attorney Erin ‘Brien of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit said, asking Rovito for a sentence of 56 to 112 years.
Lawrence’s attorney, John Schultz of Philadelphia, had asked Rovito to impose a much lighter sentence of five to 10 years, a request the judge denied. Lawrence, who had been incarcerated in Chester County Jail since being convicted at trial in September, did not address the court.
During his trial, Lawrence – who served with the Pennsylvania State Police at its media barracks in Delaware County from 1982 until his dismissal in 2000, argued in his testimony during his trial that he had acted as a father figure to the victim now in his twenties. , having deep feelings for her during a difficult time in his life, but that he had never acted inappropriately with her and denied that there had ever been any sexual contact between them.
“I wanted to help her,” Lawrence, 62, of Wilmington, Delaware, said of the girl, who was his then-girlfriend’s daughter. “It seemed like there was something wrong with her. And I was going to be there for her.
But the jury completely rejected his description of the events, deliberating for only around 90 minutes before finding him guilty on all counts.
Rovito convicted him of child rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a child, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault endangering the well-being of a child, and sexual abuse of a child.
In addition to sentencing him to state prison, Rovito also named Lawrence a sexually violent predator under the state’s Megan Law, which means that if released, his address would have to be reported to neighbors. of his residence. He is also forbidden to have contact with the victim – whose name is hidden – his mother or other minors.
During her trial, the victim said that the sexual relations between her and Lawrence took place on a regular basis before she was 10 years old. They kissed and “kissed”, he gave her oral sex, he fondled her and once he tried to have sex with her.
“I loved him like a father, and I thought I was doing the right thing, because that’s what he wanted,” she said on the witness stand when asked. how she felt about their interactions. But, now, “I wouldn’t want something like that to happen to my kids,” she said.
Lawrence’s relationship with the young girl was odd and frowning from the start.
His name then surfaced in 2003 in a high-profile case involving sexual misconduct by soldiers across Pennsylvania. A federal judge has released about 1,000 pages of previously confidential state police internal affairs files in a civil rights lawsuit against a former soldier sentenced to prison for assault. sexual.
The report included the names of soldiers who had been disciplined for sexual misconduct, including Lawrence’s. News reports at the time did not describe what misconduct Lawrence was disciplined for, or when it happened.
But during the trial, it was revealed that Lawrence had started a sexual relationship with the girl’s mother after she was arrested in 1998 when she was married to a major local drug trafficker. He was 38 and she was 18. It is against policy for soldiers to have sex with defendants in cases they are part of, as Lawrence was with the woman – who testified against him on Monday.
The most damning evidence against Lawrence was the tape of a conversation the woman had with him in February 2020, just before he was charged, which was recorded by Chester County detectives. In it, they talked about what happened between them when she was younger, and he specifically neither denied nor contradicted the instances she remembered, including the trip to Six Flags and a meeting where he had tried to have sex with her.
“That’s how it evolved,” Lawrence could be heard on the tape, which was played for the jury, discussing oral sex. “You seemed so eager to please. Like with energy in a relationship, you know, that eagerness. And I couldn’t wait to do the same for you.
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.