A Kokomo man convicted of child molesting will spend the next handful of decades in prison.

Robert Nathaniel Farmer, 40, was sentenced to 50 years Thursday by Howard County Superior Court IV Judge Hans Pate. Nearly all of those years, 49, are executed, with 48 years in the Indiana Department of Correction followed by one year of in-home detention and one year suspended on supervised probation.

Farmer’s sentencing comes about two months after a jury trial found him guilty on one count of a Level 1 felony of child molest after a two-day trial and a little more than one hour of deliberation by jurors. Farmer, according to court documents and trial court testimony, molested a female child under the age of 14 through penetration and forced oral sex.

While Farmer was charged with a level 1 felony, since both the defense and state agreed the crime occurred before July 1, 2014 — when the state moved from an A-D system of classifying felony offenses to a level 1-6 system — that the sentencing length should follow the Class A length and not a Level 1 length.

There is a slight difference between the two. A Class A felony is punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison, with an advisory sentence of 30 years. A Level 1 felony is punishable by 20 to 40 years in prison, with an advisory sentence of also 30 years.

Five people, including family members, friends and a former employer, testified Thursday on Farmer’s behalf, with another eight people writing in letters. Nearly all of them said that while they respect the U.S. justice system and the verdict of the jury, they did not agree with it and asked for a sentence heavy in supervised probation or work release.

Farmer’s uncle, Brian Chelf, said if the family had believed he molested a young girl, “there would have been vigilante justice.”

None of the family members who spoke Thursday said they saw any predatory behavior between Farmer and children, nor did any of their own children ever tell them of any inappropriate behavior by Farmer. A younger sister described Farmer as the “rock” of the family.

Farmer gave an unsworn statement during his sentencing in which he maintained his innocence, asked for “mercy” from Pate and asked for a light sentence with much of it on probation or work release so he could continue to be employed and be a “productive member of society.”

Pate, though, in his speech before handing down his sentence, highlighted the serious of the crime and that even though Farmer was charged with one charge of child molest, the victim said at trial the abuse happened approximately 50 times. Pate also added that nearly all of the people who testified on Farmer’s behalf Thursday did not attend the trial.

“There is a disconnect to what happens in public and what happens behind closed doors,” Pate said, parroting a talking point used by the prosecution during the trial. “No one is invited to the party of a child molest. It always happens behind closed doors, in private and that’s what the jury decided here.”

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.

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