The state Superior Court is upholding the sentence Huntingdon County imposed on a Morris Township man who pleaded guilty to indecent assault charges for abusing young family members.
Through his legal representative, Daniel Hostetler, 57, currently housed at SCI Houtzdale in Clearfield County, sought post-sentence relief in the form of a lesser sentence.
Hostetler, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced last year to 1 to 4 years in prison. The case launched in February 2018 when one of the victims, now an adult, reported the abuse to state police at Huntingdon.
“We’re certainly satisfied that the Superior Court upheld Judge Zanic’s sentence,” Huntingdon County Assistant District Attorney Julia Wilt said. “This case was very difficult for the victim, who has been living with the memory of abuse for years. We are glad she can get some closure.”
The appeal presented to the Superior Court argues Huntingdon County President Judge George Zanic placed too much emphasis on Hostetler’s familial relationship to the victim when he imposed sentence Nov. 29, 2018.
“Despite (Hostelter’s) show of remorsefulness, his cooperation with law enforcement and his lack of subsequent offense, the (trial) court chose to sentence (him) to a sentence which had a minimum which was the top of the aggravated range and a maximum which was the statutory maximum for each offense,” the appeal states. “The (trial) court’s reasoning that the guidelines did not adequately take into account the familial relationship between (Hostelter) and the victim was not an appropriate reason to impose a sentence in the aggravated rage.”
The Superior Court determined the various considerations used by Zanic to reach a decision on Hostetler’s penalty were appropriate.
“Upon review, we find that the trial court took into account all necessary considerations, including but not limited to, the nature of the offenses, PSI report, victim impact statement, appellant’s allocution and letters it received from appellant’s supporters,” the Superior Court wrote. “Based upon the foregoing, for the reasons it cited on the record, the trial court concluded that the imposition of aggravated-range sentences was appropriate. We see no abuse of discretion in this determination.”
Hostetler entered guilty pleas to indecent assault without consent and two charges of indecent assault on a person less than 16 years of age. Each charges is a misdemeanor 2 offense. The two charges of indecent assault on a person less than 16 merged for sentencing purposes.
At sentencing, Zanic said “…what the sentencing guidelines don’t consider is the fact that this was your child.” He explained that relationship, in a situation when the person who was supposed to provide protection for the child was her abuse, adds weigh to the offense.
The victim who reported Hostetler to police presented a statement in court, recalling how at age 14, she decided “to be a voice, to stop the family trend of abuse.” She said the defendant “perverted our relationship” — a relationship that should have been filled with “trust and love.”
Wilt explained that since Hostelter did not have a prior criminal record, the offenses carried a standard range between restorative sanctions (probation, restitution and fines) and up to three months’ incarceration. Under those same guidelines, the aggravated range is six months.
“When a judge deviates from the sentencing guidelines and imposed a sentence in or beyond the aggravated range, he must place the reasons for deviation on the record at the time of sentencing,” Wilt said. “In this case, Judge Zanic appropriately stated his reasons for imposing an aggravated sentence.”
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Hostetler subjected the victim to inappropriate touching over a four-year period, from October 2002 to October 2006.
The case also highlighted the laws which require persons working with youth, including church leaders, to report child abuse to authorities.
Hostetler’s pastor, David Fisher entered a “no contest” plea to endangering the welfare of a child, a felony 3 offense, for his failure to alert police about the Hostetler’s matter. He was placed on probation for 15 months and was required to enroll in training on how to report suspected sexual abuse.
State police at Huntingdon say instead of taking the matter to law enforcement, Fisher chose to handle in-house.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.