Dublin businessman blames "jock itch" for public indecency involving children

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A Dublin businessman accused of touching himself and exposing himself to children has pleaded guilty.

John Michael Hammel was convicted of three of five counts against him Tuesday.

Police say he targeted children at COSI and the kids' section of a bookstore.

But those guilty pleas come with a stunning explanation that has one father furious.

Fifty-two-year-old John Michael Hammel spoke only a few words Tuesday in Franklin County Court. The most important: "Guilty."

The judge found him guilty of three charges: two public indecency in what appears to be a sex act and one public indecency-exposure.

The charges against him based on acts caught on camera last summer.

Inside COSI, the children's science museum, a woman told police Hammel followed young girls with his hands in his pockets, masturbating.

At Petland, witnesses reported Hammel exposing and fondling himself.

And twice at Half-Price Books, where police say he exposed himself to a 5-year-old girl.

10TV spoke with her father, who we aren't identifying to protect her anonymity. He was with her at the bookstore when it happened.

"I was in the clearance section, looking at books for her. I found a couple of books, went over there, as soon as I walk over, he jumps up, walks right past me, I'm not thinking anything of it," the father said. "She goes, 'I'm supposed to keep a secret. He asked if I could keep a secret.' I'm like, 'Tell me!' Then she proceeded to tell me, 'He was showing me his penis Daddy.' And then I saw red and went running through the store looking for him. Because I knew what he looked like, he walked right by me."

Despite his guilty pleas, Hammel's attorney says it was a medical condition, not malicious intent, behind his actions.

"Unfortunately in Ohio, it's illegal to itch yourself in public, if it appears as though it could be a sex act. And unfortunately in Mr. Hammel's case, he developed a severe case of basically jock itch," said attorney Will Nesbitt.

He says Hammel wasn't pleasuring himself but scratching himself.

Glenn McEntyre: "All of these witnesses got it wrong? All of them misinterpreted this?"
Will Nesbitt: "I'm not saying they misinterpreted it. In fact, we agree that what they interpreted appeared to be a sex act. and that's why Mr. Hammel entered a plea today. Because we don't disagree- ultimately when you look at the video, it does appear that he's in a sex act."

"It's mind-blowing to me that this is what they've come up with," said the 5-year-old's father.

He calls Hammel's explanation ludicrous.

"It wasn't just my daughter. Look at the other cases. Like really? It's that bad that you can't control it around them? Then you shouldn't even be in public."

Hammel's attorney says he has statements from doctors to support his claim, that Hammel is embarrassed, and his life has been wrecked by these charges.

But from this father, he gets no sympathy.

"He's scum. And he doesn't need to be in the vicinity of children, period."

Hammel will be sentenced in March. Prosecutors say he faces a maximum of 150 days in jail.

His attorney says his conviction carries no requirement to register as a sex offender.

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