A metro Atlanta psychologist who spent years counseling children will spend two decades in prison after violating the trust of those around him and molesting a pre-teen girl.
In a muffled voice, Jonathan Gersh, 38, admitted in a Cobb County court Friday that he took lewd pictures of the girl, which he put online and were viewed around the world.
Prosecutors said he also took cell phone pictures of children in bathing suits in public and offered to trade photos online. “These pictures are not baseball cards to be traded,” said Judge Steven Schuster.
Gersh’s charges included child molestation and child pornography, but Schuster said “I have a duty to the victim, the victim’s family and society to stop any form of what I perceive to be sex trafficking.”
Defense attorney Richard Grossman had asked the judge for five years in prison. Prosecutors asked for 18 years. Grossman said described his client’s actions as compulsive “voyeurism” and said Gersh “led an exemplary life” as a loving father who offered pro bono counseling to the community.
“He has lost his business, he has lost his friends, he has lost a great deal,” Grossman said.
State records show Gersh was licensed to practice psychology in Georgia starting in April 2011 and that he became involved with Intown Psychological Associates about that time. The medical practice offered psychological testing, counseling and therapy at offices in downtown Atlanta along with Marietta and Conyers.
At the time Gersh was arrested, police said there might be more victims because of his access to children through his job, but prosecutors said Friday the investigation found no patients who had been victimized.
Prosecutor Chuck Boring said the investigation began in Australia, where Homeland Security agents alerted Cobb detectives to a photo Gersh had posted online of him molesting a girl, who was identified by her mother.
The mother, whom Gersh had dated, told the court she was blindsided by all this and doesn’t know how many nude photos of her daughter he posted online.
“There were too many too count; different pajamas, different nights,” she said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is not identifying the mother, who named herself and testified in court, to protect the identity of the victim.
Boring read a statement from the girl’s father in court. He said his Girl Scout, who wants to become a marine biologist, remembers pulling up the blankets so Gersh would think she was asleep. She had kept the secret since kindergarten.
He said he asked her what she wanted to happen to Gersh. “She wanted Jonathan to go to jail for a long time.”
Gersh read a brief statement in court Friday in which he acknowledged the ripples of his crimes.
“I am truly sorry for unnecessary suffering,” he said, adding, “I forever will live with these burdens of my own making.”
The judge ordered Gersh to spend 20 years on probation and that he be added to the sex offender registry.
Gersh’s family remained somber when Schuster announced the sentence. Grossman declined to comment after hearing the sentence, which was two years longer than what prosecutors had requested.
Boring said he was “very satisfied” with Gersh’s punishment.
“He’s a coward that preys on kids,” Boring said.
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