(NEW YORK POST) – A man convicted of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl has been re-elected as volunteer fire chief of a small Pennsylvania town — to the outrage of his victim’s mother.
Fire Chief Roger Gilbert Jr., who heads the Spartansburg volunteer fire company, pleaded guilty to “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” in 2001 after forcing the toddler to perform oral sex on him, The Corry Journal reported Saturday.
Gilbert, 43, completed a five- to 10-year prison sentence for the heinous crime and is listed in the state’s Megan’s Law database.
The former felon joined the small town’s fire department in 2010 as an unpaid volunteer and was just re-elected to his second term as chief.
He told the paper that being on the force has changed his life for the better.
“That was 20 years ago,” he said of the crime.
“You know, the story you are telling kids is once you make a mistake, you will be punished for the rest of your life,” he said. “I’ve changed my life for the better. Every day I get up and try to do good.”
But his victim’s mother isn’t buying it.
“As fire chief, this man interacts with children,” she told the newspaper. “If you were in an accident, would you want this man working on your child?”
Mayor Ann Louise Wagner told the paper she and the firefighters knew of Gilbert’s sordid past in 2010 and that she won’t reverse their decision to make him chief.
“I support the fire department and their decision to have him as chief,” she said. “The firemen have always elected their own officers, and that’s how it’s always been done. We don’t question their decisions.”
Pennsylvania State Police said it’s up to each community to decide whether to allow sex offenders to serve at the local level.
Several residents of the town of 300 residents expressed support for their fire chief, Your Erie reported.
“He goes to our church, and he is trying his best to turn everything around for his life because he knows what happened is wrong,” said Allan Fisher.