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Child molester gets 12 years in prison, 8 more on probation
Jeremy Puckett

Jeremy Puckett was caught molesting a 3-year-old girl by a woman he thought was sleeping and later gave a full confession to investigators.

But when Puckett took the witness stand during his trial last month, he claimed others put thoughts in his head that prompted a false confession.

Saying Wednesday he "did not believe a word" of Puckett’s courtroom explanation, a judge sentenced the 25-year-old Flowery Branch man to 12 years in prison.

"You swore before God to tell the truth to a jury, and you failed miserably to uphold that oath," Hall County Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller told Puckett during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.

A jury convicted Puckett of child molestation last month for the January 2008 crime, which happened in a Hall County home and involved a victim who knew Puckett. According to court testimony, Puckett molested the girl in the same room with an adult who he thought was asleep in a chair.

Assistant District Attorney Lyndsay Burton said Puckett later told investigators, "If he hadn’t gotten caught then, it would have gotten worse."

In a courtroom where more than a dozen people sat in support of the defendant, Fuller quoted extensively from Puckett’s statement to investigators.

"For several months I have been, I guess the word would be, ‘fondling’ (the victim)," Puckett told investigators. Puckett admitted to committing the acts several times in various places.

"I look back on it; I don’t know what I was thinking," Puckett told investigators.

He later testified in court that his statement to investigators was influenced by a woman who wanted to "set him up."

Puckett turned down a negotiated plea offer made by prosecutors before the trial that would have brought 10 years in prison.

Public defender Ann Watson asked the judge to consider a probated sentence that would require Puckett to undergo psychological counseling. But Fuller said counseling is only appropriate for someone who has taken responsibility for his actions.

"You foreclosed that possibility with your own testimony" the judge told Puckett.

Fuller, who said he believes Puckett is a pedophile, imposed a sentence of 20 years, with 12 in prison and the rest on probation. Puckett must register as a sex offender for his entire life and can’t have unsupervised contact with children under 18 for the length of his probation. The restriction applies to Puckett’s children.