An emotional crowd gathered at the 32nd Judicial District Courtroom on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, during pre-trial proceedings presided over by Judge Glen Harrison.
One guilty plea was entered during that time, prosecuted by District Attorney Ann Reed and Assistant District Attorney Barrett Thomas. Joshua Wright, with attorney Lynn Ingalsbee, pled guilty to indecency with a child by contact, a second degree felony. According to court documents, on or about Aug. 14, 2009, Wright touched the genitals of the victim, a child under 17 years of age, as well as the genitals of his brother, also a child under 17 years of age.
The defendant wept as he was questioned by the state, his attorney and Judge Harrison. The father of the children gave victim impact statements, reading a letter to the defendant from each child. The father also spoke directly to the defendant, "I don't know what to say. You changed our lives forever," he began. "The pain, stress, shame and hurt that you put my family through are indescribable. You were family to us and we trusted you with our most prized possessions. You not only betrayed our trust, but that of many people at our church."
Wright is the former music minister at a local church in which the victims and their family are members.
"We didn't realize that a broken heart could hurt so bad," the father continued. "We feel that we failed in protecting our children and it took us a long time to get over the guilt. Our world came crashing down and you were the cause. We want to hate you, but we don't — we feel bad for you and your family."
After the victim impact statements were given, Judge Harrison read the punishment — arranged by the DA and the defendant's attorney, which the DA stated was discussed with the victims' families — was read to the court. Wright was sentenced to 10 years of deferred adjudication probation. He is also responsible for paying a $4,000 fine and $743 in court costs and will have to serve 240 hours of community service. He will have to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
In deferred adjudication probation, a defendant is placed on a probation for a certain period of time. If the probation is successfully completed, the case is dismissed. A defendant will enter a guilty plea, but the judge does not find the defendant guilty and instead defers the finding of guilt. Pleading guilty for deferred adjudication is not considered a conviction under Texas law. A criminal background check will show the arrest for the charge, will show the deferred adjudication, but it will not show a conviction.
If a defendant violates probation while on deferred adjudication in a case such as this, the judge can sentence the defendant to up to 10 years in prison. If Wright does not violate his probation after 10 years, he will no longer have to register as a sex offender.
In this case, the defendant was never arrested and was only booked the day of court, spending no time in jail. Learning this, Judge Harrison sentenced Wright to 14 days in jail and Wright was immediately remanded to the Nolan County Jail.