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Convicted sex offender enters Alford Plea to offense against original victim's sister

July 14, 2011|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

A Clear Spring man convicted earlier this year for a sexual offense against a girl entered an Alford plea Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to a sexual offense against the girl's sister.

James Weller Sr., 56, formerly of 14402 Mercersburg Road, had been convicted in a May trial before Judge Donald E. Beachley of attempted third-degree sex offense and second-degree assault.

He was sentenced at that time to seven years in prison with four years suspended, court records said.

In that incident, Weller had been charged after a group of people flagged down a passing Washington County sheriff's deputy on May 5, 2010, telling him Weller tried to sexually assault an 11-year-old girl in his home.

On Thursday, Weller appeared before Beachley again, entering the Alford plea to the third-degree sex offense. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.

As part of the plea agreement, the state dismissed charges of fourth-degree sex offense and sex abuse of a minor in the case. Another case involving the sisters' cousin was also dismissed.

Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson told Beachley that the original complaint against Weller led to the original victim's sister telling investigators that Weller had tried to kiss her and touched her inappropriately in 2009 when she was 13 years old.

Weller, who is illiterate, appeared to have some difficulty understanding the proceedings Thursday. Beachley offered to either delay the plea or have him appear before another judge.

"I understand what you're saying ... I know what I'm doing," said Weller, who broke out sobbing at one point. "I'm just scared; I want to get it over with today."

Noting Weller's poor health and age, Assistant Public Defender Jerome Joyce asked Beachley to impose "a sentence that will not cause him to die in prison."

Beachley added 18 months to Weller's prison time, consecutive to the three years he is already serving. He will also have to register as a sex offender for life, Wilson said.

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