ADVERTISEMENT

LOCKPORT – A West Seneca man was sent to state prison for five years Tuesday for having sex with a 12-year-old girl on Nov. 18 in North Tonawanda.

“We liked each other,” Justin C. Wheeler said when Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Farkas asked him to explain what Wheeler called “an error in judgment.”

Wheeler, 21, of Westminster Road, had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree rape. The sex was not forcible, prosecutors said, but the girl was five years younger than the age of consent.

“How many men in this room, when they were 21, were looking at a 12-year-old as a love interest?” Farkas asked. “Something is wrong, and I hope treatment and counseling can address that in a positive way.”

Farkas gave Wheeler the shortest sentence she could under terms of a June 19 plea bargain. The girl, both families and a probation officer who interviewed Wheeler all urged leniency. The sentence includes 10 years of post-release supervision.