HEBRON — A Davenport businessman convicted earlier this summer of four counts of sexual assault of a child may spend the next 30-40 years in prison following a sentencing hearing in Thayer County District Court Thursday.
Harold L. Stone, 60, received sentences of 15-20 years on each of four counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child and a sentence of four to five years on one count of intentional child abuse not resulting in injury.
He appeared for sentencing before District Judge Vicky Johnson. Afterward, he was remanded to the custody of the Thayer County Sheriff’s Office for delivery to the Nebraska Department of Corrections.
The first two 15- to 20-year sentences are to be served consecutively, bringing Stone’s total possible time in prison to 30-40 years. Those two sentences are to be served concurrently with the other three.
Stone was arrested on the charges against him in June 2015. He was free on bond prior to his jury trial in late June of this year, but had his bond revoked following his conviction. He had been housed in the Thayer County Jail since that time.
Stone was charged in connection with alleged assaults on a 15-year-old girl at his home in Davenport, beginning in August or September 2014 and continuing into February 2015. He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges of which he was convicted, and officially rejected a plea bargain offer on the day the jury for his trial was selected.
The jury found him not guilty on a fifth count of first-degree sexual assault of a child.
In a news release, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office said Stone began home-schooling the girl in fall 2014 and that the two became involved in a sexual relationship. The girl reported the sexual abuse in May 2015.
Key evidence at trial included electronic files seized in a search of Stone’s residence, including digital photographs, emails and text messages. Stone had been charged and pleaded not guilty to two counts of possession of visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, which were being prosecuted separately. Johnson dismissed that case Thursday.
Stone was represented at Thursday’s sentencing hearing by his lead defense attorney, Robert Creager of Lincoln. The case against him was prosecuted by two assistant attorneys general, Jason Bergevin and Sandy Allen.
Other members of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Criminal Bureau legal team includes Investigators Kerry Crosby and Ed Sexton and Ellen Reilly, the case victim-witness coordinator.
Stone will be required to undergo DNA testing and fingerprinting and must register as a sex offender for 25 years in accordance with Nebraska law. Before he could be released from incarceration, he would need to undergo an evaluation by a mental health professional to determine if he was a dangerous sex offender and in need of a civil commitment.
Over the last several years, Stone has become well-known in Tribland as a food systems entrepreneur. He and his wife, Barbara, have operated the Stones Thoreau businesses, which include produce farming and the South Maple Street facility, with its commercial kitchen, in downtown Davenport.
The Stones moved to Davenport, Barbara’s hometown, in 2011 from Washington, D.C., with a vision of helping to supply healthy, affordable fresh food to residents of Thayer, Fillmore, Nuckolls and Clay counties.
Previously, Stone had worked as an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project coordinator and park ranger for the National Park Service, overseeing rehabilitation of historic structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
Prior to that, Stone had worked as an extension educator in Harris County, Texas, specializing in environmental policy and environmental planning; and as a professor of urban and regional planning in the University of North Carolina system.
Barbara Stone has commuted between Davenport and Manhattan, Kan., where she is the department head for 4-H Youth Development and assistant director of K-State Research and Extension at Kansas State University.