DA discusses guilty plea, probation process

During Monday's guilty pleas, one defendant pled guilty to four different cases involving sex offenses against a child and received community supervision, fines, jail time and community service in each case. According to 32nd Judicial District Attorney Ann Reed, several factors are taken into consideration in determining how to successfully prosecute sexually-based child abuse cases. Experience indicates that when a case of this nature is tried to a jury without the benefit of some evidence other than the victim's testimony, it is very difficult to win a guilty verdict. "While I understand that people want the alleged criminal to stand trial, I have to take into consideration the victims in the case as well as the possibility of a not guilty verdict", said Reed. Some victims--regardless of the age--cannot or will not cooperate and/or testify for a variety of reasons. Many times, the victims and/or their families would rather have a predictable result in these cases so that they know the defendant will face certain consequences for their actions rather than nothing. Reed added that she and her staff always talk with the victims, especially children, and their family members in order to prepare them for trial, as well as get the family the necessary help and counseling regarding their respective situations. During the guilty plea, the victims are able to hear their offender admit their crime, and Reed has seen first-hand the burden being taken off the shoulders of the victim following the guilty plea."I think that child victims are especially empowered when they see the defendant being handcuffed and taken from the courtroom". Reed acknowledges that with probation, victims at times may see their perpetrator in and around town; however, rather than being afraid or ashamed, the victim knows that they caused that person to have to stand up and admit what they did and they don't have to be afraid of them anymore. "Probation," Reed explained, "is not the end of the story." The offenders are required to report to their probation officer on a normal basis, pay their fines, and even take a polygraph test to ensure they are falling in line with their probation requirements. They are also not allowed to be on the internet, and their homes can be searched anytime if a suspicion arises.Additionally, the defendant has to register as a sex offender and undergo sex offender counseling. Something new that has been put into place is for sex offender status to be placed on their driver's license in order to guarantee safety.Reed also said that the defendants have to comply with a variety of conditions during their probation, such as not living with a child under the age of seventeen years of age, and not going near places where children gather, like playgrounds and public schools.In some cases, like the plea from Monday, the defendant will additionally have to write the victim impact statement and submit it to the judge once a week while he serves a year in jail as a condition of probation. And should an offender mess up--even one time, their probation can be revoked which can result in a prison sentence. In her 16 years, Reed pointed out that most of the cases dealing with revoked probation have led to incarceration.The district attorney also reiterated the fact that drugs and their possession and sale are not tolerated within her jurisdiction. On Tuesday, one of the defendants from the October 2010 crack cocaine distribution house that was busted by local authorities pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 years of prison time.Even though the defendant was a first-time felon, Reed hopes that the punishment given will serve as a reminder to others who hope to continue the sale of drugs in the area of the possible consequences.Reed also added that she is thankful for the partnership her department has with the local probation office and their diligence in taking every case seriously by checking up on the defendants----especially ones involving sex offenders.