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Man charged with assaulting granddaughter may get off with misdemeanors

By Frank DeLoache
fdeloache@salisburypost.com
A Rowan County couple say they moved from Stanly County partly because their daughter was sexually assaulted there 11/2 years ago ó by her grandfather.
Now the couple are concerned the Stanly County District Attorney’s Office may agree to a plea bargain in the case, reducing the four pending felony charges to two misdemeanors.
To avoid identifying the victim of a sex crime, the Post is not identifying the couple, their daughter or the grandfather.
As the parents understand the negotiations, the 65-year-old defendant may not receive any prison time ó and no more than five months ó and would have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
“It just doesn’t seem like a punishment to me,” the mother of the 12-year-old victim said Monday. “It just doesn’t seem harsh enough for what he’s done.”
But no plea agreement has been reached, and nothing has been placed in the defendant’s court file.
Assistant District Attorney Debra Jackson, the prosecutor handling the sexual assault case, said Monday, “I cannot comment on the case.”
She referred all questions to District Attorney Michael Parker, saying, “Mr. Parker is aware of the information.”
Parker, the chief prosecutor for Stanly, Anson and Richmond counties, said Rules of Professional Conduct 3.6 and 3.8 prevent attorneys on either side of a pending criminal case from commenting.
Reached by phone Monday, the defendant, who lives in New London, said, “They talked to me about it. I don’t think any of the damn stuff is fair because I didn’t do anything to begin with.”
The man’s Albemarle attorney did not return a phone call from the Post Monday.
The girl’s father said his family lived next door to his father in Oakboro at the time of the alleged assault, and he was close to his father, the girl’s grandfather, at the time.
Then, without explanation, the girl’s grades plummeted from all As to failing. And the girl cried and protested whenever her parents suggested she go next door to visit her grandfather.
About that time, the family moved to Albemarle, and within two weeks, the girl told her mother that her grandfather had assaulted her. The parents called a counselor at the girl’s school, who contacted the Sheriff’s Office and the Stanly County Department of Social Services, the father said.
The girl was examined at the Butterfly House, a child advocacy center at Stanly Regional Medical Center. The girl’s father said a physical examination showed signs of sexual abuse.
The grandfather was charged with repeated sex offenses against a child younger than 12. The Stanly County News and Press reported the offenses allegedly occurred once between June and August and again between September and November 2007.
Two other circumstances in his family also motivate the girl’s father to seek strong punishment for his father:
– More than 30 years ago, when the girl’s father was 7 or 8, he remembers his older sister accusing his father of taking sexual liberties with her. The family was living in Florida at the time, and after giving an initial statement to authorities there, the girl decided not to pursue charges.
The father says sheriff’s investigators have gotten that earlier statement and talked to his sister, who now lives in Stanly County.
Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Williams said Monday that Stanly detectives have interviewed the woman, but the family was living in Florida at the time of the incident. And he said he could not comment further about the Sheriff’s Office investigation. The sister does not have a listed phone number.
– The father’s brother ó the girl’s uncle ó was convicted in Florida in 1993 of attempted indecent assault on a child younger than 16. He was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison and later served more prison time for failing to comply with Florida’s sex offender law.
That uncle is now living with the girl’s grandfather in Stanly County.
The family moved to Rowan County in October 2007 for two reasons.
The grandfather had harassed the family by parking down the road from their Albemarle home, letting them see him. He also followed the family to the Department of Social Services once.
The father said his daughter was growing fearful and worried about even waiting for the school bus in the morning.They also moved because the girl’s father was still in school, training to become a minister, and needed to finish a required internship. He found a church here and is now helping pastor a church in Landis, he said.
The girl’s parents say they have grown frustrated with the court system, as hearings in the case have been delayed repeatedly.
The girl’s mother said prosecutor Jackson had told her the Stanly County office has cases much older than their daughter’s still pending. Jackson said the case could take five years, the mother said.
Her daughter “could be 16 or 17 by that time and then have to dredge up the whole thing,” the mother said. “In the meantime, how many kids is he coming in contact with?
“He could die of old age.”
The girl’s father wrote to state Attorney General Roy Cooper, complaining about the delays.
The father says he holds state lawmakers partially responsible for not giving local prosecutors the staff they need to handle cases quickly.
The parents acknowledge telling prosecutor Jackson they would like their daughter to avoid testifying in a trial, another condition that the proposed plea bargain would satisfy.
“I don’t mind doing a plea bargain,” the girl’s mother said. “But I do want to see justice served.”
The girl’s father said his daughter will testify if necessary to get a conviction. He said the memory of the assault is forever etched in her mind.
The couple said Jackson didn’t tell them the details of the proposed plea bargain when she called last week.
So the girl’s mother said she called Jackson back and was horrified to learn that her father-in-law might be allowed to escape by pleading to two misdemeanors.
The girls’ father called Jackson back another time and said he and his wife would not agree to those terms.
That’s when Jackson seemed to take offense, the couple say, and told each of them that they didn’t get to make the decision on a plea agreement.
After that conversation, the father called several news media outlets, asking for publicity on the case.
The investigator in the case, Stanly County Sheriff’s Sgt. Carla Eudy, is on vacation this week.
Stanly County Sheriff Rick Burris said the District Attorney’s Office rarely consults with him or his deputies after they turn over their case.
But Burris said he would oppose, in general, a plea bargain that reduces four felonies to two misdemeanors.
“Maybe dropping from four felony charges to two felonies,” Burris said, “but not slapping on the hand with just a misdemeanor.”

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