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Heart condition or no, David Paisley is going to prison.

Missoula County District Court Judge Ed McLean sentenced the 43-year-old convicted sex offender and former local high school basketball coach to 10 years in the Montana State Prison on Wednesday, and implied that Paisley was a different man after suffering a heart attack in 2007.

"Mr. Paisley, the court takes judicial notice of the lack of criminal record that you had prior to your heart attack," McLean said. "Since that heart attack, your behavior has been outrageous."

That behavior included an online exchange between Paisley and what he thought was a 14-year-old Missoula girl. When he showed up to meet the girl in the back lot of Kmart in May 2010, he found Missoula Police Detective Chris Shermer waiting to arrest him.

Paisley claimed in court that he never intended to have sex with the girl, though he'd offered to buy condoms before the meeting. In April, he entered an Alford plea to a charge of sexual abuse of a minor, conceding the state could prove its case against him but not admitting his guilt.

McLean handed him a suspended 10-year sentence in June, with conditions that included Paisley not go unaccompanied to places where children congregate. Less than 20 days later, a group of Missoula detectives, including Shermer, saw Paisley eating his lunch alone in Bonner Park.

That led to another appearance in McLean's court on July 11 for violation of the sentencing conditions, shortly after Paisley was taken to the emergency room of a local hospital. Paisley said the visit showed he was having problems with the defibrillator that was implanted after his heart attack.

McLean said at the time he intended to send Paisley to prison, but agreed to a continuance and placed him on house arrest while Paisley consulted with a cardiologist.

On Wednesday, public defender Chris Daly said Paisley's doctors had found a blood clot in his left arm. He has an echocardiogram scheduled for Thursday and a neurological consultation on Aug. 15.

Daly requested another continuance of 30 days while a treatment was determined. McLean replied that he would order Paisley spend a reasonable time in Missoula to get his medical problems under control. But the judge left it up to prosecutor Jason Marks whether Paisley remain under house arrest in Missoula or be sent to the Missoula County jail on the state's dime.

"The question is, are you ready to pay for it?" McLean said to Marks. "It's your call."

"I'm prepared to proceed with this disposition," Marks replied.

McLean then ordered that Paisley be held in the Missoula jail for 60 days to complete his medical treatment.

"The reason for the sentence is quite simply (that) you pose a risk to the children of the community that is just totally unacceptable," McLean told him. "You have to be removed to realize the seriousness of your actions. Good luck to you, sir."

Paisley came to Montana in 2004 after a successful basketball coaching career at Maple Heights High School in his native Cleveland, Ohio, where he was named 2003 Ohio Coach of the Year. He spent a season each coaching the Ronan girls, the Darby boys, the Missoula Sentinel junior varsity girls and the Missoula Hellgate girls.

He suffered a heart attack in the Hellgate parking lot in July 2007, not long after he was tabbed for the job, and returned in time to coach the Knights the following winter. He resigned for what were termed personal reasons after the 2007-2008 season.

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Marks said after the hearing that as a state inmate, Paisley's medical care becomes an issue for the Department of Corrections to deal with.

"I don't think we would ever get to a sentence if we waited for his health issues to be resolved," he said.

The 10-year sentence is the maximum for a charge of sexual abuse of a minor. Paisley will be eligible for parole after 2 1/2 years.

Shermer, one of the state's few full-time detectives in the federally funded Internet Crimes Against Children task force, attended the hearing and said he appreciated McLean's decision and applauded Marks for his pursuit of the maximum sentence.

"He could have backed away from the 10, but Jason Marks has always made the right decision. We love him up there in the county attorney's office," Shermer said.

In his position, Shermer focuses on online enticement, such as Paisley was convicted of, and child pornography. Usually posing as a young teenager, he deals with predators and potential predators "almost on a daily basis," he said.

"There are many, many of them out there," said Shermer. "I hit the on button and get on a chat line and it's instantaneous - and it's instantaneous to talk about sex."

 

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