Harms’ way exploits girls

An Oak Harbor man was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday in Island County Superior Court for sexually exploiting young girls over the Internet.

Norman Harms, Jr., a former Navy man, was previously convicted of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of possession of child pornography.

The charges stemmed from the defendant’s communication with two 12-year-old girls in Ohio and a 17-year-old girl in Missouri, in Internet chat rooms and telephone instant messenger services. He posed as a younger man and convinced them to send him, via the Internet, video of themselves engaging in disturbing sex acts.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said the two counts did not adequately describe the unconscionable crimes Harms committed.

“Sexual exploitation of a minor sounds to me to be a very clinical description of the crime that Harms committed here,” he said. “There’s really no reason to sanitize what he did. Mr. Harms has murdered the innocence of two ordinary 12-year-old girls . . . this is a crime against people.”

Banks briefly considered showing the videos recovered from Harms’ computer, but could not in good conscience subject more viewers to the graphic nature of the material. He said the defendant earned the girls’ trust and then proceeded to “assault their privacy and rape their dignity.”

“They trusted him and he took advantage of their desire to be what 12-year-olds want to be, and that is all grown up,” Banks said. “What they really never wanted to be, I am sure, was porn stars in a bestiality film that could be distributed around the world in seconds.”

The prosecution asked the court for a 12-year exceptional sentence, two years in excess of the maximum sentence for the crimes. In the end, Judge Alan Hancock imposed the maximum 10-year sentence, citing the abhorrent factual material in the case and the vulnerability of the young girls.

Defense attorney Angelyn Gates said Harms spared the victims and their families additional emotional hardship by not sending the case to trial. The defendant said in court Friday that he was remorseful and takes responsibility for his crimes.

Gates took exception with a number of conditions recommended for Harms’ community custody, calling them vague and unenforceable. Hancock agreed that some of the conditions added by the prosecution were not necessary, but the judge stipulated that Harms participates, makes progress, and ultimately completes a sexual deviancy treatment program.

“There needs to be a tight rein on Mr. Harms as he enters community supervision,” he said. After his sentence, Harms will face 36 to 48 months of community custody for the two counts and up to 12 months for possession of child pornography.

Hancock was prepared to require restitution for the victims, but the families never contacted the prosecutor’s office to request compensation.

“Frankly, I think they want to be left alone,” Banks said.

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