A judge said she felt sympathy for the mother of a 20-year-old man serving a 15-year prison term for molesting a 4-year-old girl, but wouldn’t budge on the sentence.
Hall County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver on Tuesday denied a defense motion to reconsider the prison sentence she gave Christopher Hughes following his conviction earlier this year on a charge of aggravated child molestation.
Attorney Dan Summer, who was hired by Hughes’ family following his conviction by a jury, said he would file a motion for a new trial.
Summer said his client’s original lawyer offered no evidence of Hughes’ good character before he was sentenced.
Hughes, who was a teenager at the time of the offenses, faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison on a conviction of aggravated child molestation. Oliver set his sentence at 15 years.
Summer called several character witnesses to testify on Hughes’ behalf Tuesday, including relatives, people he knew through his church youth group and a woman who worked with him at a Gainesville grocery store.
"Chris is young, but he has a life ahead of him, and I would ask your honor to show him mercy," former co-worker Doris Norris said.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bagwell asked Norris if she thought it was important to keep other children in the community safe.
"I do," Norris said.
Summer said the 10-year sentence "is a long time. Fifteen years is an extraordinarily long time ... and 15 years is what he’ll serve, if that’s what you give him."
The judge said she added five years to the 10-year-minimum sentence because she felt it warranted more prison time than a case with an older victim in her teens who might have given consent.
"The thing that makes this case outrageous and to me egregious is the age of the victim," Oliver said. "This raises it to a level above the mandatory minimum. Obviously, there’s going to be a difference in doing this with a 15-year-old girl who may give consent and a 4-year-old."
"I certainly sympathize with his mother and the situation she’s in," Oliver said. "My stomach is upset over this case, but I’m also a judge that has a job to do."