A former Cuyahoga Falls police officer who sexually assaulted a woman was granted early release from prison Monday after serving about seven months of his two-year sentence.
During his judicial release hearing, Lewis Watson again apologized to the victim, who was 23 at the time of the incident. The judicial release hearing was held via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“My actions were thoughtless and I will spent a lifetime making up for it,” Watson said.
He continued, addressing his comments to Summit County Common Pleas Judge Amy Corrigall Jones: “I am not a danger to anyone. I will not reoffend. Please allow me the chance to prove that to you.”
Watson pleaded guilty in August to sexual battery, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a more serious rape charge.
Watson is being held in the Toledo Correctional Institution.
Jones said during sentencing in October that she would consider judicial release for Watson after he served six months.
Prosecutors say Watson assaulted the woman, whom he met through a friend while they were at a bar, on June 21, 2018, at Watson’s East Hunter Lake Drive apartment. He was not on-duty at the time.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. Watson was immediately placed on administrative leave and later resigned.
The victim in the case did not make a statement during the hearing. Assistant Summit County prosecutor Seema Misra said the victim had recently had oral surgery and had previously told her she did not wish to speak during the hearing.
Misra argued that Watson had not served enough time for his crime.
“Two years is an appropriate length of time for him to serve,” she said.
Watson’s attorney, Jeff Laybourne, noted Misra was not the original prosecutor on the case and said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson did not have the same access to resources and learning that the prisons previously had provided.
“I think she’s confused about the timing issues,” Laybourne said. “He has done almost seven months on this case.”
Watson was ordered to serve five years on probation. He also must register as a Tier III sex offender. He must register in-person at the county sheriff’s office every 90 days for the rest of his life.
In addition, he must undergo a mental health and substance abuse evaluation.
Laybourne noted he will have limited job prospects with the felony conviction and the sex offender registration.
A status hearing on the release is set for 2 p.m. June 15.