Former police officer sentenced for sexual relationship with 17-year-old girl

Former police officer sentenced for sexual relationship with 17-year-old girl
Chris Avis pleaded guilty to three counts of dissemination of material harmful to minors as part of a plea deal.

CORYDON, Ind. (WAVE) - Emotional words poured from the victim of sex crimes perpetrated by Chris Avis, a former Georgetown and Corydon police officer.

"You got to look like the good guy for so long,” she said as she read a statement during Avis’ sentencing hearing.

In February 2018, Avis was arrested and charged with having a sexual relationship with a teen -- facing two counts of child seduction and a charge of dissemination of material harmful to minors.

May 9, 2019, Avis agreed to a plea deal, pleading guilty to three counts of felony dissemination of material harmful to minors. The other charges were dismissed.

Thursday, Harrison County Judge Joseph Claypool sentenced Avis to eight months in jail and 10 months of probation for those charges.

Harrison County Prosecutor Otto Schalk said police are in positions of trust, so these crimes cannot be brushed off. When a person is in a position like that, the age of consent moves from 16-years-old to 18-years-old, and this judgment reflects that significance.

“This is not the good ol’ boys system. In 2019, there’s no room for that," Schalk said. "I don’t care if you’re a prosecutor, if you’re a police officer. If you break the law, you should be held accountable, no different from anyone else.”

In the courtroom, the victim explained she knew Avis from being in and out of the court system; her childhood was a troubled one. Police records said the pair began a sexual relationship, exchanging nude photos.

In a statement, the victim said, "No one ever told me I was loved or that I mattered or that I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to until it was too late. He took my value before I even knew my worth."

“It’s definitely heartbreaking and it makes me think we’re doing the right thing," Schalk said. “We need to hold people accountable, especially those the public has given the ultimate trust to.”

Avis represented himself in the courtroom, despite repeated urging by the judge for licensed counsel. Avis pleaded for leniency, telling the judge he had made a mistake but stressed he had a long record of public service that demonstrated his character. He also said he was working to donate a kidney.

The victim, reading her statement in court, said: “Because of this mistake, he failed in every role he’s ever had to play in the span of his lifetime. And I lost everything. Opportunities, friends I had known forever and family I was just starting to trust.”

The victim’s foster mother demanded consequences for innocence lost, saying, “He crossed the line. He broke the law. And the fact that he was an officer should not give him a free pass.”

Following his eight months in the Harrison County Jail, Avis will serve 10 months of probation. As a condition of that probation, he is to have no contact with the victim.

The sentence was not the maximum allowed by the judge, but Schalk said it was longer than usual because Avis was an officer.

“I certainly think justice was served,” Schalk said.

Avis was taken into custody and down to the Harrison County Jail immediately after being sentenced Thursday. Another condition of his probation when he is eventually released, he won’t be able to have any kind of electronic communication with anyone under the age of 16 on social media.

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