Steve Schwab sentenced to two years on molestation charge

Steve Schwab sentenced to two years on molestation charge

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Steven Schwab, in custody, awaited transport to Dukes County Jail to begin his sentence, flanked by assistant district attorney Laura Marshard and defense attorney Timothy Kelliher. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Former Chilmark community leader and Island Insurance salesman Steven A. Schwab was sentenced Friday in Edgartown District Court to serve a total of two years in the Dukes County House of Correction for molesting a seven-year-old child.

Presiding Justice H. Gregory Williams accepted a plea agreement by which Mr. Schwab, 65, pleaded guilty to indecent assault on a child, assault, and two charges of lewdness.

According to a police report, Mr. Schwab repeatedly exposed himself to the young victim, tried to kiss her, and made her promise never to tell anyone about it.

Judge Williams ordered Mr. Schwab taken into custody in the courtroom. “You are committed,” Judge Williams said from the bench.

Mr. Schwab, tall and lean but standing slightly stooped, put his arms behind his back as court bailiffs handcuffed his wrists. The mother of the victim and supporters, as well as Mr. Schwab’s wife, watched from the court benches.

It was the culmination of a dramatic morning of testimony surrounding the fall from grace of the well-known Island resident.

Crime was committed

The mother of the victim gave a victim’s impact statement. Quietly, but in measured tone, she spoke directly to Judge Williams.

She said the age of her daughter, seven years old at the time of the assaults, and the extended length of time over which she was molested warranted severe punishment.

“I forgave Steve from the very beginning, and I still do, but a crime has been committed,” she said. “I don’t feel anger, I don’t know why, I just feel sadness, for (victim). I think that Steve should register as a sex offender, because he is a sex offender. I think he should serve time in jail. He and others of his ilk need to know this is not going to be tolerated. I don’t understand what pleasure he got out of seeing the fear [the victim experienced] each time he exposed himself to her.”

Judge Williams rejected a request from defense attorney Timothy Kelliher that Mr. Schwab serve an unspecified period of time in jail, followed by a period of house arrest.

Cape & Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard recommended a sentence of two and a half years, with one year to serve. The judge also departed from that recommendation.

Instead, Judge Willams said he would be inclined to accept a plea that included two consecutive one-year jail sentences.

“That’s what I would find acceptable today,” Judge Williams said. “If there is a trial, it would be a different matter, a significantly different matter.”

After a short recess and a discussion with his attorney, Mr. Schwab returned to court, and his attorney said he would agree to plead guilty and accept two years in jail.

Ms. Marshard said the Commonwealth was satisfied with the four guilty pleas.

“With a plea, Mr. Schwab would be sparing [the victim] from having to go through a trial,” she said. “It’s obviously very difficult (for her) to be in his presence, and have all those incidents relived.”

Double life

Mr. Schwab admitted in court that the prosecutor’s description of the crimes was essentially accurate. In arguing for leniency, Mr. Kelliher said Mr. Schwab was not always the respected community leader many people thought he was.

“He’s led a double life his entire time on this Island,” Mr. Kelliher said. “He was very, very prominent in the community, but then he was going away to have sex with prostitutes and other people.”

In arguing for leniency, Mr. Kelliher said his client accepted responsibility for his crimes.

“It was his fault that he was exposing himself and touching her and kissing her,” Mr. Kelliher said. “That was wrong, and he knows he’s going to jail.”

Mr. Kelliher said no other children were molested, and that Mr. Schwab is not a pedophile.

Judge Williams questioned that characterization sharply.

“Once I hear this defendant is attracted to a seven year old girl, how is that not pedophilia?” Judge Williams asked Mr. Schwab’s therapist from the bench.

“Well, your honor, pedophilia is…” said therapist Francesca Caton-Diaz.”

“It’s a sexual attraction to children, is it not?” Judge Williams interjected.

“Yes,” replied Ms. Caton-Diaz. “He became addicted to pornography, adult pornography. Toward the end of that there started to be some child pornography. You have to have a predisposition, you have to have a mindset, that that’s your arousal, that’s your trigger. That has never been him, until that time, and never since.”

Where to serve

The lawyers made vigorous arguments over where Mr. Schwab should serve his jail sentence.

The Massachusetts Department of Correction assigns prisoners to a corrections facility. Though the judge can make a recommendation as part of his sentence, he has no authority to order where the sentence is to be served.

The first to address the issue in court was the victim’s mother, in her victim’s impact statement.

“I ask that the jail time be served off Island,”she said. “I think (victim) might feel better about that.”

Ms. Marshard argued that the Mr. Schwab and the Island community would be best served if Mr. Schwab was assigned to a facility where he can get treatment.

“It seems that Bridgewater, Walpole, and Gardner all have sex offender treatment programs that are state certified, and I would ask the court to consider a recommendation to one of those facilities.”

Judge Williams said he was considering a recommendation to send Mr. Schwab to the Plymouth County house of correction. Mr. Schwab moved to Middleton shortly after his arrest, according to court testimony.

“I’m already part way down that path,” Judge Williams said. “I don’t see why he should be incarcerated on Martha’s Vineyard, since he doesn’t live here any more.”

Mr. Kelliher argued forcefully against an off-Island assignment.

“This is a man who’s never been in jail, never been in trouble,” Mr. Kelliher said. “He’s 65 years old. Especially with these sex crimes, your honor, he would be the victim of many, many, many other assaults. I’m asking that he do his time here in Dukes County, where I believe he will be treated fairly. He’ll still be punished, but it wouldn’t be by other inmates. The inmates in Walpole, the inmates in Bridgewater, they have nothing to lose by attacking him. The inmates in Dukes County have a lot to lose if they attack him. If they do attack Mr. Schwab, they’re going to be sent off Island to another jail.”

Judge Williams decided not to recommend an off-Island sentence and accepted the four guilty pleas.

“I find that your guilty pleas are made voluntarily and intelligently, with knowledge of their consequences, and I do accept them,” Judge Williams said.

Well known in community

Mr. Schwab was active in civic affairs. He was a vice-president of Martha’s Vineyard Insurance Agency and a well-known Island businessman with a history of community work at the time of his arrest.

He served on the Chilmark School building committee and helped shepherd the politically nettlesome project to completion. He was for many years chairman of the Chilmark housing committee, and he was a member of the Chilmark human resources board.

Mr. Schwab was also a school volunteer at the Edgartown School where he participated in the school’s enrichment program for several years and worked with students interested in rocketry.

Following an investigation by several law enforcement agencies, Chilmark Police arrested Mr. Schwab on April 18, 2012, and charged him with two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14, and two counts of open and gross lewdness.

According to police reports filed in district court at the time of his arrest, Mr. Schwab repeatedly exposed himself to a juvenile girl over a period of about one year and a half, from July 2007 to November 2008. The girl was seven years old when these activities began, according to the police reports.

The arrest came more than four years after the prosecutor alleged he began molesting the young victim, who was in his care at the time. Mr. Schwab relied on promises of secrecy from his victim to conceal his behavior, according to police reports.

In November 2008, family members became aware of his actions and confronted Mr. Schwab. He agreed to seek treatment.

The police investigation began when a therapist contacted the state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to report a case of possible child abuse. Therapists are “mandated reporters,” required to report information about child abuse.

Massachusetts law requires mandated reporters to immediately make an oral or a written report to DCF when, “in their professional capacity, they have reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 years is suffering from abuse and/or neglect.”

Following the court session Friday, Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi told The Times it is his understanding that Mr. Schwab, his wife, the victim, and others sought therapy soon after his family discovered his assaults, and long before his arrest. Chief Cioffi said he will investigate whether any therapists failed to report the assaults, as they were required by law to do.

“This investigation is still open,” Chief Cioffi said. “I intend to investigate the counselors, to see whether charges are appropriate.”

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Schwab, a Chilmark registered voter, was living on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Tisbury.

On September 28, 2012, Mr. Schwab appeared before Judge Williams prepared to plead guilty to charges of indecent assault on a child under 14, assault, and lewdness.

Ms. Marshard recommended that Mr. Schwab serve 18 months in an off-Island house of correction, followed by five years of probation, with conditions that included registration as a sex offender.

Ms. Marshard asked that Mr. Schwab be imprisoned on the mainland rather than at the Dukes County House of Correction in Edgartown, at the request of the victim’s family.

Defense attorney Charles Morano recommended three years of probation, with similar conditions and no incarceration.

But, when Judge Williams rejected a plea offer that included no jail time, saying instead that he would find a one-year jail sentence acceptable, Mr. Schwab withdrew his offer to plead guilty.

Judge Williams scheduled a trial to begin on December 10. That was delayed when Mr. Schwab retained a new attorney, and the trial was scheduled to begin on February 8.


  1. Why hasn’t anyone commented on this story but there are almost 100 about a kid that wants to open a dispensary on the island? Turn your heads on child molesting but criticize those who want to help others.. I get it…. So hypocritical.

    1. A beacon in the night, thank you. How can we equate such a lenient sentence for a lifetime of horror for the victim as justice ? Off Island incarceration seems much more appropriate.

    2. This was just updated wasn;t it. Got to have time for people to see it..Sentence was wayyyyyyyyyyyy to lean for sure !!!!

  2. Let me tell you something about childhood molestation…the shame, pain and scars NEVER go away. EVER.

    Mr. Schwab may clock in his two years. His young victim? Not so lucky.

    1. The Gazette gave details I hadn’t read previously, making this victimization even more horrifying. The sentence is so lenient it’s disgusting. The counselors who failed to report will probably get harsher punishments. I can only hope his victim will one day learn to trust again…

  3. I just hope that they don’t give him any preferred treatment, and throw him right in with all those hardened criminals that were sentenced to 10 years of hard time for selling or possessing marijuana.

    1. I could only hope that dealers would get 10 years for dealing,that might slow it down a little but 6 months probation without finding seems to be the rule here.
      this molester will be out in 6 months,probably wear a braclet for 6 more,won’t have to register and be free to do it again,and you can bet on that,after all look who he is and what side off the tracks he live on,that’s why they call em privilaged people,the only person that’s come out the loser is the little girl who will pay forever.

      1. Long sentences should only be for violent crimes. our judicial system is definitely flawed. Filled with egotistical, racists. Our prisons are overcrowded and designed to hold mostly minorities. What i’m noticing about our island judicial system is that it is extremely flawed. This is a slap on the wrist court system and perhaps we may need to examine the people that run it.

  4. As usual, crime pays on MV. Only here would a shrink have the nerve to say to a judge in court that a man who was molesting a child for years wasn’t really a pedophile. It stinks of that “give him another chance” philosophy that permeates our legal system and enables criminals to pursue their crimes with little or no consequences.

    2 years for possibly ruining a child’s life, ruining her innocence, terrifying her for years? This is a punishment? Anywhere else he’d be doing 10-15 in a real prison, not in the cushy, safe local jail where he’ll never learn about fear like he deserves to. Disgusting.

  5. Too bad he didn’t get a harsher sentence at a state prison. Child molesters are hated by the other prisoners. Living with the same fear his victim does on a daily basis would be an appropriate punishment.That might teach him a lesson. He should have shown the court some respect and worn a suit and lose that purple shirt that he always shows up in.

    1. You’re right, NotNewHere! Schwab showed no respect for the court by dressing down the way he did. I’m sure he has a few suits in his closet, along with the skeletons!

  6. I wonder if Tucci will get the same treatment!!!!not saying,I think he should but why should one get one punishment while another gets another because of their standing on the social ladder

  7. “Once I hear this defendant is attracted to a seven year old girl, how is that not pedophilia?” Judge Williams asked Mr. Schwab’s therapist from the bench.
    “Well, your honor, pedophilia is…” said therapist Francesca Caton-Diaz.”
    “It’s a sexual attraction to children, is it not?” Judge Williams interjected.

    Steve Schwab is a sexual predator, he started with prostitutes and graduated to under aged girls. The therapist needs a jail cell next to him. I feel real sorry for his family especially his children. Mr. Schwab withdrew his offer of no jail time the first time, I am glad that the judge felt his plea was unacceptable. He plead guilty, the victim will not have to testify, save the little girl more trauma. Two years, well immates have a code in prison for guys like him. The Gazette article gave more details, well I hope he gets pinched in buttocks when he doesn’t kiss his cell mate good night.

  8. to Ms. Caton-Diaz, surely you are not saying that adult pornography segued into child pornography! first of all, child porn is still illegal and secondly, we know that rape and child molestation are crimes about control. so mr. schwab certainly did have a predisposition/mind set towards controlling and destroying the child’s life.

  9. If this perverted PEDOPHILE serves his time on island and stays on
    island afterwards, we as island residents need to EXILE him and all the
    other child molesters that live on this island. They see Martha’s
    Vineyard as a place where they can blend in and live normal lives and we
    can’t allow it.

    If this sicko were to serve his time on the
    mainland, he’d probably come back just like all the others. They must be
    ostracized and treated like the outcasts they are. I feel that this
    treatment is reserved for child molesters. Business owners and residents
    alike need to make these people feel so unwanted that they either kill
    themselves or leave. I know this sounds seriously harsh, but I mean it.
    People like this NEVER change.

    I believe that most will agree
    with me that these people or dangerous in our communities and I think
    you should all gain access to the registered sex offenders lists which
    are public and really make these men feel the heat. Refuse them service,
    call them out, and make them leave.

    It is unfair/unacceptable
    for the victims and their families to have to see these CRIMINALS in the
    grocery store, at cumby’s, the post office, or just in the street. It
    invokes blood boiling and an unfair feeling of shock and fear. Most of
    these people are extremely strong and resilient, but that doesn’t change
    the fact that they were abused and they don’t want that fact shoved in
    their face over and over again by the possibility of facing their
    abusers. This young girl is fortunate to not have to face him in trial,
    but I guarantee you there will be a time in the future where she will be
    alone and she will see him and that time will be much more terrifying
    than facing him from a distance in a court room.

    It’s time to refuse these men the luxury of calling Martha’s Vineyard home.

    1. Pedophiles are people too. Boy such hate speech. I remember time not too long when creeps like him were exiled from the community and nobody gave they the time of day. Their family was shamed and they left also. When you have these half cocked therapist who state their patient has a diease and needs treatment like a cancer patient — people feel sorry (emotional card gets played) and children suffer!

      1. I’m not sure if you’re agreeing with my “Hate” speech or not because I
        can’t understand what you wrote. Pedophiles may “Be people, too,” but
        that doesn’t give them the same rights and respect as
        non-sexual-deviants. This guy and all other pedophiles are sexual
        criminals who abuse the trust and vulnerability of young boys and girls.

        I never said anything about ostracizing their families, too.
        Parents can only do so much; it is not their fault if their son turns
        out to be a perverted diddler.

        I seriously hope no one feels bad
        for this guy because of his sick desires or “Disease.” The men that hurt
        children are not sick in the sense that warrants pity. There is no
        treatment short of castration (which doesn’t work) no cure, no epiphany
        to be had.

        1. I do agree with you. I was giving a liberal spin on it with a healthy dose a sarcasm.

  10. This article mentioned that Schwab’s wife was in the courtroom. I cannot fathom why she has not divorced this dirty old man! Hopefully, jailhouse justice will prevail, because his sentence was entirely too lenient! He belongs at MCI Cedar Junction (Walpole), not the Dukes County Hilton.

  11. Too lenient a sentence for such a crime. The pedophile being sentenced to the Dukes County Jail is totally unfair to the victim and her family. What will she think each time she passes the jail? To get to the movie theatre in Edgartown one passes the jail? Not only would I wonder about the victims thoughts but also her cell memory… will this push her into a post traumatic stress situation. He may be out “served his time” in two years the young girl ,however, will need more than two years to feel healthy and really happy again.
    I will pray for happiness and healing for the young girl. For the criminal I pray for an Off Island Jail