ELYRIA – An Elyria man who once worked as a Head Start bus driver was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years to life in prison for molesting a 7-year-old girl five years ago.

Ed Garfield, 41, denied any wrongdoing during his sentencing hearing before Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi.

“Your honor, I’m not a criminal. All I ask is that you give me another chance,” Garfield said.

But Miraldi said he had no choice under state law but to impose the life prison sentence, which allows Garfield to ask for parole after 10 years.

According to court documents filed by prosecutors, Garfield molested the girl during bath time while baby-sitting her in 2004.

The victim and her brother urged Miraldi to impose the harshest sentence he could. The girl said the last few years of her life had “been like a prison” for her and her family.

“For all the things he has done to us, I wouldn’t want him to ever come out of prison,” the brother said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Mike Kinlin said this wasn’t the first time Garfield – who was found guilty by a jury earlier this year of rape – has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with children.

Although Garfield was never charged, Kinlin said he was warned not to have physical contact with children while working as a bus driver in 2004 after he allegedly kissed a girl on the head and told supervisors that she liked to sit on his lap.

Another family also complained in the early 1990s that Garfield was having possible sexual contact with their children, but no charges were filed in that case. The mother of those children was in court Wednesday and Garfield’s attorney, Barbara Rogachefsky, said she and one of the children insist nothing happened.

Kinlin said Garfield may be an intelligent and well-spoken man, but he couldn’t be trusted around children.

“At this point prison needs to protect society’s children from Mr. Garfield,” Kinlin said.

After the hearing Rogachefsky said she believed Garfield had done nothing wrong.

“The elephant in the room is why would they say it if it didn’t happen,” she said. “People want you to prove it didn’t happen and it’s impossible to prove it didn’t happen.”

Garfield isn’t the first Head Start bus driver to be accused of sexual misconduct and maintain their innocence through trial.

Nancy Smith was convicted of taking students on her bus route to the Lorain home of Joseph Allen in the 1990s to be molested. She and Allen spent about 14 years behind bars before county Common Pleas Judge James Burge threw out the convictions earlier this year.

Prosecutors have appealed Burge’s decision in that case.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

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