By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — A 73-year-old Salem man was led out of the courtroom and off to state prison yesterday, where he will spend the next three to 10 years for trying to sexually assault a young girl.
But Ronald Libby won’t be gone from Rockingham Superior Court for long. He’s scheduled to go on trial soon in two other sexual assault cases involving children his wife baby-sat for in their Jill Road home.
Libby, who faced 10 to 30 years in prison, was sentenced by Judge Marguerite Wageling for attempted aggravated felonious sexual assault.
A jury convicted him May 22 of trying to force a young girl to touch him between September 2008 and July 2010, when she was 5 or 6 years old. Libby had been free on $50,000 personal recognizance until his conviction.
The victim, now 10, testified against Libby during the three-day trial and was present in the courtroom yesterday with her parents.
It was the child’s courageous testimony that helped convict Libby, according to Assistant County Attorney Kirsten Wilson.
The family lived in the same neighborhood as the Libbys and trusted them, she said.
Wilson told the judge how the parents took the child to the family’s minister for guidance and hoped she was too young to remember the incidents. But she could never forget the trauma, Wilson said.
“She’s angry, she’s still scared,” the prosecutor said, recommending a three- to six-year sentence. “It stuck with her. ... It’s unforgiveable.”
The child’s mother fought back tears as she told of how her daughter suffered nightmares and would scream.
Her father said he hoped Libby would receive the counseling he needs in prison. One year of the sentence would be suspended if he receives sex offender treatment, Wageling said.
“We, as a family, will move forward and heal our wounds,” the father said. “I hope the defendant gets some help and counseling so his family can heal as well.”
Neither the victim nor Libby spoke. Libby’s family, including his wife, sat on the opposite side of the courtroom. They declined to comment after the sentencing.
William Korman, Libby’s attorney, insisted his elderly client is innocent, has health problems, and should have been sentenced to 10 years of home confinement. Otherwise, Korman recommended Libby spend no more than a year or two in state prison.
“My client should have not been found guilty based on the evidence filed by the state,” he said. “We are going to file an appeal.”
Wageling disagreed, said Libby was a sexual predator, guilty of “preying on a child.”
“She didn’t know how to get away from you,” Wageling said. “You deserve a state prison sentence.”
Libby was ordered to stay away from the victim, her family and children.
When Libby was arrested last summer, his wife told Salem police she had baby-sat for at least 50 children in their home over the past 20 to 30 years.
Libby’s second trial begins June 16. He will be tried on an attempted aggravated felonious sexual charge for trying to abuse another child between June 1991 and August 1991. She is now 24.
The third trial starts Sept. 22. The case involved a 6-year-old girl whom prosecutors allege was forced to touch Libby between June and August 1991. She is now 18.
The victim and her family immediately left the courtroom after Wageling handed down her sentence. Korman said he was disappointed with the sentence.