NORRISTOWN — A Worcester man who co-owned a popular East Norriton restaurant was sent to prison for having indecent contact with an underage boy at the eatery.

Abraham “Avi” Michele Maman, 29, of the 2000 block of Berks Road, bowed his head on Wednesday as a Montgomery County judge sentenced him to 5½-to-11-years in state prison on charges of unlawful contact or communication with a minor, corruption of minors, indecent assault forcible compulsion and videotaping a child under 18 while engaging in a prohibited sexual act in connection with incidents that occurred between May and December 2018.

Judge Wendy G. Rothstein challenged Maman’s claim he had “a lapse of judgment” and the more than two dozen supporters who wrote letters to the judge suggesting Maman made “a mistake.”

“We need to call it what it is, predatory conduct…sexual molestation. This can never be viewed as ‘a mistake,’” Rothstein addressed the hushed courtroom as she imposed Maman’s punishment.

The judge said Maman, a proprietor of Roots restaurant at 148 W. Germantown Pike in East Norriton at the time of the assaults, was in a position of trust and befriended and groomed the “vulnerable” teenage boy.

“You have scarred the victim for the rest of his life,” Rothstein addressed Maman. “This is a sad day. There are no winners here and there is no way to sugarcoat this.”

While Maman, his supporters and defense lawyer Timothy Woodward suggested Maman’s struggle with being gay and difficulty coming out to the community about his sexuality made him feel isolated and depressed and may have “in some small way” contributed to his conduct, the judge said she found that suggestion “offensive to the LGBT community.”

“To suggest that any struggle with a sexual identity at all contributed to this, I think the judge said it best, it is offensive to the LGBT community and it’s completely inappropriate,” said Assistant District Attorney Bridget Gallagher.

Gallagher argued Maman was able to hold himself out to the public to be a respectable community-focused business owner, however, behind closed doors he used that trust to “prey” on a teenage boy for his own sexual gratification.

“He fooled everybody. He had every single person fooled. He picked and isolated an emotionally vulnerable 14-year-old boy. He was the predator and that boy was his prey,” Gallagher argued. “He chose this victim. He gained this victim’s trust. He gained the victim’s parents’ trust.”

Gallagher praised the victim for having the courage to report the abuse.

The victim’s mother wept uncontrollably in court as she expressed the impact of the crime on her son and her family.

“We will live with this pain and trauma for the rest of our lives,” the boy’s mother testified. “Avi is a sick man.”

In a letter read in court by Gallagher, the victim said he continues to have “flashbacks and nightmares.”

“You betrayed my trust,” the boy addressed Maman in the letter.

Maman pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this year.

“I wish I could take back what I did. Unfortunately, I cannot. I had a complete lapse in judgment. It was completely out of character for me. Looking back at this makes me greatly ashamed,” Maman addressed the judge. “I would like to apologize to the family, putting them through a horrible ordeal.

“It is an evil act that will haunt me forever,” Maman added.

Woodward relied on several witnesses who testified Maman was a well-respected businessman in the community and they described him as being “a kind, generous and honest person” who made “a mistake.”

“This is a kind, caring, compassionate individual with an insatiable desire to help others,” Woodward argued, adding Maman once came to the aid of the victims of a fatal fire. “That’s the kind of heart he has and still has.”

Woodward said Maman suffered from depression and struggled with revealing his sexuality to others, fearful of how customers and others in the community would view him.

Maman faces a lifetime requirement to report his address to state police in order to comply with the state’s Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act. The judge prohibited Maman from having unsupervised contact with minors and ordered him to undergo sexual offender treatment after he is paroled.

“He will be punished for what he did until the day he takes his last breath,” Woodward said. “He lost just about everything.”

An investigation of Maman began in December 2018 when the underage boy and his parents contacted East Norriton police to report that Maman had inappropriate sexual contact with the boy on numerous occasions since May 2018, according to a criminal complaint.

“The abuse mostly took place at this location,” East Norriton Detective Michael Henricks alleged in the arrest affidavit, referring to the restaurant.

The victim told detectives that on more than one occasion, Maman brought him into the restaurant's office and touched him inappropriately. The victim reported he told Maman he was uncomfortable with his advances and told him to stop.

“At one point defendant told the victim he (Maman) had a problem,” alleged Henricks, adding Maman told the boy “he was gay and since he was a business owner in the community he did not want people knowing.”

The victim also described other incidents during which Maman touched or tried to touch him inappropriately, detectives alleged. Maman also allegedly offered to pay the boy money if he allowed Maman to perform a sex act on him, according to court documents.

Maman, according to the criminal complaint, also showed the victim videos of him performing oral sex on another male.

“Defendant further told the victim he was helping prepare for when the victim was with a female, so the victim would know what to expect,” Henricks alleged.

During the investigation, detectives seized a digital video recorder surveillance system from the restaurant and examined its contents, according to the arrest affidavit.

Detectives subsequently uncovered recorded events depicting Maman touching the victim in an inappropriate manner, according to the criminal complaint.

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