‘A TREMEMDOUS ERROR’
Ex-Radnor pol gets 2 years probation for groping woman, 103, in nursing home
Former Radnor commissioner William Spingler arrives at district court in this file photo. He was sentenced Thursday to two years probation for groping a 103-year-old woman in a nursing facility.
MEDIA COURTHOUSE » Former Radnor Township Commissioner William Spingler was sentenced to 23 months of intermediate punishment Thursday for fondling a 103-year-old woman’s breast last year. He also was ordered to spend 60 months on home monitoring.
The probationary sentence includes 60 days of electronic home monitoring, but does not require Spingler to register as a sex offender or be supervised under special sex offender rules of probation and parole.
Spingler, a Democrat, was convicted in June on two counts of indecent assault on a person with a mental disability following a jury trial before Delaware County Common Pleas Court Judge John Capuzzi.
“I made a tremendous error and showed a total lack of good judgment in my actions, and for that I’m truly sorry,” said Spingler Thursday. “But the thing I’m most sorry for is the pain that I’ve inflicted on my family.”
Assistant District Attorney Ryan Grace was seeking a prison term of three to 23 months followed by seven years of probation. While the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board found Spingler does not meet the criteria for a sexually violent predator, Grace said there are aggravating factors in the case, including Spingler’s position of trust with the victim, the fact that there were multiple events and that the assaults involved a person who could not defend herself.
“Sexual exploitation of the elderly doesn’t get as much attention in our community as sexual exploitation of children, but it is just as horrific because both on them constitute sexual violence against vulnerable populations,” said Grace. “The horror of being in a cloud of dementia only to see a trusted face coming at you in the form of sexual violence is unimaginable.”
Defense attorney James Pierce noted his client has never been in trouble with the law before. He pointed to psychological evaluations and other reports that found Spingler is a low risk for reoffending and did not conclude his motivation was for sexual gratification.
Spingler admitted at trial that the first two counts took place at the Genesis Healthcare Wayne Center in Radnor on Dec. 15 and Dec. 17, 2016, but denied a third assault had taken place Dec. 23. He was acquitted on that charge.
Spingler testified that he has known the victim for 57 years and said she lived with him for eight years before she was placed in the center in August 2015.
The victim is diagnosed with dementia, but Spingler said she usually recognized him during his frequent visits. That changed at a birthday party Dec. 8, when Spingler said she did not recognize him at all. It was the same when Spingler visited again Dec. 15, he said.
“I got nothing, no recognition out of her and I made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said at trial. “I thought for shock value, you know, I could get her to say something, let her know I was there. I touched her breast. It was the dumbest thing I ever did, but I did it to get her attention and let her know that I was there.”
A nursing assistant testified that she witnessed the first assault and reported it to her unit manager.
Another employee said she saw Spingler touching the victim’s breast under a blanket covering her chest on Dec. 17. The third incident allegedly occurred when Spingler was saying goodbye to the victim Dec. 23. He had wrapped an arm around the woman and was squeezing her breast through her shirt, according to testimony at trial.
Capuzzi noted one report indicated Spingler had stopped going to church and asked why he had abandoned his faith. Spingler said he had not turned his back on his faith, but he had stopped going to that particular parish because he felt his presence was an embarrassment and a distraction.
“My reputation has been destroyed, my business has been destroyed, but after today I’m going to move forward and … hopefully be able to rebuild the reputation that I’ve built over 65
years in Radnor Township,” said Spingler, a Realtor.
Spingler, 76, of Paoli, was the first Democrat to join the Radnor Board of Commissioners in 1970. He also served as a county commissioner from 1972 to 1980 before returning to the Radnor board in 1991. He stayed in office until 2015, stepping down as president.
In addition to probation, Spingler was ordered to have no unsupervised or inappropriate contact with the victim, and to enter into sex offender treatment and follow any recommendations.
The judge notified Spingler that if he violates probation, he could be resentenced to two and a half to five years for each charge.
Spingler’s sentence comes one day after current Radnor Board of Commissioners President Philip Ahr was charged with multiple counts of possessing and distributing child pornography. Ahr, also a Democrat, has posted 10 percent of $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a preliminary
hearing Oct. 26 before Magisterial District Judge David Lang.
“I was shocked by the whole episode and I just wanted to see justice done,” said Lamar Layfield, a Radnor resident and Democrat who came to the sentencing hearing. “I think a little bit of jail time would have been helpful, but 23 months of probation, as I understand it, a significant amount of time wearing the bracelet – you know, I go with the judge.”
Layfield said he has known Spingler for years, sometimes working with him and sometimes working against him. He said the string of accusations against Spingler and now Ahr show a clear and ugly pattern with the Democratic candidates being put up by the local committee.
“It’s absolutely horrendous,” he said. “What we heard yesterday about current President Phil Ahr was shocking. I mean it was beyond belief, frankly, and with Bill, that’s disturbing as well. It’s a real shock. It’s hard to understand exactly what’s going on, what the motivations are.”
“This was very troubling,” added Radnor’s 3rd
Ward Commissioner Lucas Clark, a Republican, who was also at the hearing. “This was the one person she could trust, and therefore I think a little bit of time in jail would have sent the message that this will not be tolerated. But overall, I think it was a fair sentence.”
Clark noted Spingler was his commissioner when he first moved to Radnor and it has been difficult for him to deal with, but he is glad Radnor has some closure.
“This is not what the township stands for, I said it yesterday,” said Clark, referring to comments he made when Ahr was arrested. “The township does not stand for this and that’s why we voted to remove (Spingler’s) awards, because we wanted to distance ourselves form him and close that chapter.”
Clark said the township has given Ahr until close of business Friday to resign from the board, but Radnor might have to get into some creative legal wrangling should Ahr refuse to do so. Clark does expect to see a 6-0 vote at the next council meeting Oct. 23 to have Ahr removed as president, however.
Former Radnor commissioner Bill Spingler speaks at a League of Women Voters candidates forum in this October 2013 file photo.