Days before trial was set to start, a Clermont man accused of child molestation agreed to a plea deal.
On Friday morning, Leon Messerlian, 87, was given a 30-year sentence, with 10 years to be served in confinement. The rest of the sentence may be served on probation.
“After considering all relevant factors, Mr. Messerlian decided to close his case to a negotiated plea, without an admission of guilt, pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, as he felt that was in his best interest,” Messerlian’s attorney Clinton Teston said in a statement.
In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the evidence against him would likely be enough to sway a jury to convict.
Messerlian was a violin teacher accused of nine counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of attempt to commit aggravated sodomy and attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery, according to the indictment.
In the plea deal, the Hall County District Attorney’s Office did not prosecute Messerlian on the last two charges.
The trial was set for Monday.
Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson said the judge heard several victim-impact statements, which she described as “emotional” and “powerful.”
There is also an issue of restitution left open for 60 days, Teston said, which may or may not require a hearing.