CATLETTSBURG A Boyd County jury convicted an ex-Boy Scout leader Wednesday evening of using social media to solicit sex with a minor, but acquitted him of sexual abuse charges.
After five hours and 15 minutes of deliberations, the jury returned the verdict against 56-year-old Paul Steven Crace, of Catlettsburg. The jury of nine women and three men acquitted him of five counts of first-degree sexual abuse and convicted him on one count of prohibited use of an electronic device to induce a minor.
Following a short sentencing phase in which jurors heard from a parole officer and the defendant's sister, the jury recommended Crace serve three years in prison. He was facing one to five years in the pokey for his conviction.
Crace was accused of molesting a boy in his Boy Scout Troop between 2013 and 2015 — the case was initially charged on the solicitation count after the victim's parents found his phone containing sexually explicit messages. The abuse allegations were not disclosed until 2018, when the boy was 17.
During closing statements, defense attorney Sebastian Joy hammered on inconsistencies in the victim's account, citing discrepancies in the timeline and lack of certain details in the account — the defense attorney dwelled a while on the victim not recalling if he climaxed during the abuse.
He also implied Crace's ex-wife and the prosecutor fed the victim details about the interior of the Crace home, where the abuse was alleged to occur. Furthermore, he said the messages were a phone hack.
Joe Merkel, Special Prosecutor from Greenup County, contended in his closing remarks that the defense's theory of the case made no sense, instead stating Crace took advantage of a boy from an at-risk family down on their luck. He said the victim took so long to disclose the abuse because dealing with sexual abuse is difficult.
“The defendant doesn't get to decide when the victim discloses abuse or who he discloses it to,” Merkel said. “Child sexual abuse victims don't take notes during their abuse. This is your chance to give this victim justice.”
Ordinarily, a convict serving a one- to five-year felony (class D) is parole-eligible after serving 20% of the sentence. However, the sexual nature of the crimes means Crace would have to wait one year to get into a sex offender treatment program that could last between 18 months and two years before seeing a parole board.
During sentencing, Joy argued that Crace had already lost everything in his life — family, career and his home — and should only serve a year.
“He's already lost everything, he'll be a convicted felon and a sex offender for the rest of his life,” Joy said. “Give him a fair sentence. If you sentence him to a year, it will be a full year. He will not be parole-eligible. He's already paid a significant price.”
Merkel said Crace tried to buy a 13-year-old boy's body and should be given the max.
After the jury was dismissed, Joy asked for Crace to be sentenced on the spot, stating he has been on an ankle monitor for double the length of the sentence and should be able to have credit for his time under supervision.
Merkel objected, stating the victim should have the right to file an impact statement to the court. Judge George Davis agreed and set a sentencing date for Nov. 5.
Davis revoked Crace's bond so he could be held at the Boyd County Detention Center until sentencing. Joy again reasserted his motion for an on-the-spot sentencing, calling placing Crace into custody after he's been on bond for so long “a miscarriage of justice.”
Davis wasn't having it.
“He has been on supervision because he could make cash bond. An ankle monitor is not a jail cell. Take him to jail now,” Davis said.
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