Sex offender faces time in prison for failing to notify sheriff of address change

LISBON – For a second time in less than a year, Robert J. McLaughlin Jr., pleaded guilty in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court to failing to notify the sheriff of his change of address.

McLaughlin, 53, whose address is now the Columbiana County Jail, pleaded guilty on Aug. 1, 2013 to the charge. Then later, before his sentencing on Sept. 13, McLaughlin changed his mind. He requested to be allowed to pull his guilty plea.

Between September and now, McLaughlin was also examined by an expert to make certain he is competent to stand trial. A status hearing was set for Friday, but McLaughlin chose again to plead to the charge.

The charge stemmed from him failing to alert deputies of his residence in February 2013 as he is required to do following a gross sexual imposition conviction in 2001. Court documents state McLaughlin last registered his address as Shadyside Avenue, East Liverpool, on Dec. 7, 2012. On Feb. 13, the sheriff’s office received a tip from a woman claiming McLaughlin was living at a home on Ninth Street in East Liverpool instead of his registered address.

Deputies went to the home to check and spoke to McLaughlin’s brother, who did live at the Shadyside Avenue address. His brother and his wife told deputies McLaughlin had been living in a trailer on the property, but moved away about two months earlier.

McLaughlin’s conviction which led to him being a registered sex offender was a gross sexual imposition conviction, which followed McLaughlin’s sexual conduct through the clothing of a 9-year-old boy on Aug. 21, 2000.

Additionally, since that conviction, McLaughlin has had two convictions – in 2011 and 2009 – for failure to verify his address.

He faces between three and five years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Sentencing is now set for April 11.

Also in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court on Friday, two motions were filed in the case against Mark E. Knight Jr., 27, North Ellsworth Avenue, Salem, who is charged with rape, disseminating matters harmful to juveniles and four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Knight’s attorney, Jennifer Gorby filed a motion to have her client tested for competency, after he reportedly wrote several letters which ended up in the hands of the prosecutor’s office. Assistant County Prosecutor Timothy McNicol offered no objection to the evaluation and filed a motion requesting a handwriting sample from Knight.

Knight is accused of having sexual conduct with a then 14-year-old girl in the basement of a home in the fall of 2012 on four occasions. Additionally, he is accused of forcing sex with a then 13-year-old girl also in the fall of 2012. At one point, in 2013, Knight was found with a runaway 14-year-old girl hiding in the apartment above his home.