CHRISTIANSBURG — A licensed counselor convicted of arranging to meet a 13-year-old for sex will serve three years and six months behind bars, a judge ruled Monday.
Appearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court by a video link from jail, Jason Robert Francisco, 41, of New Castle in Craig County, apologized to his family and to the court, then said, “I plan to spend the rest of my life working with people to help them get over things like this.”
Francisco arrived in Christiansburg on New Year’s Eve 2019 for what he thought would be a sexual encounter with a 13-year-old girl, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sam Norman said Monday. Instead, he was met by police officers. The supposed 13-year-old that Francisco had communicated with online was actually town Det. Moe McClanahan, Norman said.
Francisco had set up the meeting in messages that he began exchanging in September 2019 with McClanhan, who was seeking sexual predators in the online guise of a child, Norman said. Francisco described various sexual acts that he wanted to perform with the 13-year-old, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Angi Simpkins of Dublin agreed that Norman had accurately summarized the prosecution’s evidence.
At the time of his arrest, Francisco worked as a counselor at Thriveworks, a counseling service with an office in Roanoke. His staff bio at the company said he had worked as a counselor for 13 years in Roanoke and Lynchburg, and worked with children in schools and in their homes.
Francisco’s listing on the Thriveworks website disappeared after his arrest.
The Virginia Department of Health Professions listed him as a licensed professional counselor as of Monday.
Francisco entered no-contest pleas and was convicted of two counts of using a communication system to propose sexual acts to a person younger than 15 years old.
Judge Robert Turk imposed a five-year prison term on each charge, to run consecutively for a total of 10 years, then said prison time would be suspended after Francisco served 3 ½ years. Francisco will be supervised by the probation office for 10 years after his release, Turk said.
Turk said that Francisco will have to register as a sex offender, undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation, and may use the Internet only for work-related communication. Additionally, Francisco is barred from unsupervised contact with minors and may not have social media accounts, the judge said.
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