March 14, 2011— -- A former Florida police officer told to a judge that he molested hundreds of girls as he was being sentenced in Putnam County, Fla. earlier this week.
The state's attorney's office said Paul Joseph Blair, 60, pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual battery to a minor and received a 25-year sentence. He committed the crimes against two girls between the ages of 12 and 18.
In court, Blair said he molested between 200 and 300 other girls and that he's been a pedophile his entire life.
Despite his confession, a state's attorney spokeswoman said Blair cannot be charged based on his words alone.
"That confession alone isn't proof. Victims have to get matched up to that confession," said the spokeswoman, Shannon Peters.
Peters said that investigations into other possible crimes are ongoing.
Blair also told the judge that he has an illness that requires an operation, but he doesn't want the operation. He did not specify the illness, but implied he will die without the proper treatment.
His defense attorney, Mitch Wrenn, couldn't go into specifics because of privacy laws, but said Blair has health issues that could cause problems for him in the future. Wrenn said the illness was a reason why the state's attorney's office agreed to the plea deal that spared Blair a life sentence.
Blair is in the Putnam County jail awaiting transfer to state prison, and the jail does not permit media interviews with inmates.
Peters said Blair did not portray himself as a cop during the incidents with either of the two girls, and it was unclear if he did so during encounters with other children.
Mental health experts said finding out the person who molested them was a law enforcement officer could add to the trauma the victims already are experiencing.
"They are hurt, disappointed and angry that someone who has the training and experience of being police would act toward them in that way," said Dr. Reid Finlayson, assistant professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "It damages the person even more by undermining their trust in legitimate authority, help and support."
Wrenn said Blair's confession was a surprise to him, and while the nature of Blair's illness is unknown, experts said a terminal illness could be the reason he suddenly confessed.
"Very often, it's an indicator of what we would call narcissistic guilt. He has something to be ashamed of before God and he wants to get off his chest before he dies," said Dr. Harold Bursztajn, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
Dr. Ken Robbins, director of psychiatry at Stoughton Hospital in Stoughton, Wis., said he doesn't think Blair has much of a conscience, based upon the nature of his crimes, but whatever conscience he does have may be weighing on him as he gets older.
"As he anticipates dying, he's starting to question what he did and it's creating anxiety," he said. "And when you have a terminal illness, people start rewinding the tape and looking back at their lives."
The investigation continues into whether Blair committed other crimes. While no one knows for sure, experts say people do falsely confess.
"You also have to consider that there are other reasons people might exaggerate having done horrible things," said Robbins. "It may make them infamous."
"Occasionally, people get psychotically depressed and falsely confess. They are so depressed about death that they would rather go ahead and be bad than be sad," said Bursztajn.
If Blair outlives his 25-year sentence, his attorney said he will then be involuntarily committed as required by Florida law. That law commits sexually violent offenders to special facilities for treatment.