PRINCETON — After hearing a victim describe how she was molested, beaten and terrorized as a child, a circuit court judge sentenced a Mercer County man Tuesday to a term of two to 10 years in prison for third-degree sexual assault.
A jury in the court of Circuit Court Judge Mark Wills found Bobby Lee Smith, 55, of Princeton was guilty on Oct. 25, 2018 on four counts of first-degree sexual abuse, 10 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, one count of first-degree sexual assault, and one count of incest. Smith was facing 74 to 220 years in prison if the sentences ran consecutively.
However, the court overturned the verdict in May “on the basis of some inappropriate testimony,” Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said at Tuesday’s hearing.
“The court overturned those convictions because it was bound by case law concerning statements of the investigating officer regarding the ultimate credibility regarding these allegations,” Sitler said after the hearing. “The state is not happy with the result, but this is the best we can do under the circumstances.”
According to trial testimony, Smith routinely abused two female juveniles during their childhood. This abuse started when the girls, who are now adults, were in early elementary school and continued until they were both in middle school. The victims, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, told the court that they did not want to testify at a second trial.
“Both of the victims, who are now adults, told me there was no way they were going to go to court and testify again,” Sitler said later. “The entire case as premised on their testimony. Because these incidents happened more than 20 years ago, there is no physical evidence and we had obtained guilty verdicts on 16 counts after this case was tried on Oct. 25 (2018).”
After Wills reminded Smith of his right to a jury trial and other rights, Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree sexual assault. Each count carries a term of one to five years in prison. Wills paused before pronouncing sentence, stating that he was considering whether to order a new presentencing evaluation.
Attorney David Kelley, who represented Smith along with attorney Ryan Flanigan, told the court there was already reports including a sex offender evaluation, and that the defense had no objection to proceeding with Smith’s sentencing.
“Are you guilty?” Wills asked Smith.
“Yes, sir,” Smith replied. “And I did not want to put the girls through another trial because I know the damage that’s been done to them.”
One of the victims addressed the court before sentencing. Frequently sobbing, she said that she wanted the plea to proceed.
“I’m not happy with this plea, but it’s better than letting you out,” she told Smith. “You are not part of my future or my children’s future. You’re not going to have an easy life...you’ve destroyed so many lives. I know people who won’t come back to this state while you have a pulse.”
She described years of physical and sexual abuse, telling the court she and her siblings were frequently beaten with belts, switches and other objects.
“I hope you experience for the rest of your days experiencing what I experienced,” she told Smith. “I hope somebody tries to rape you, I truly do. I hope somebody tries to sodomize you with an object like you did me. I hope you get beaten with things.”
Wills told the victim that if he accepted the plea, Smith would face two to 10 years in prison, and he had 678 days credit for time served in jail since his arrest. Smith getting close to having already served two years.
“With this understanding, you’re asking this court to accept this guilty plea,” Wills said. “I’m telling you right now, unless you want me to accept this plea, I’m not going to.”
Both victims asked Wills to accept Smith’s plea.
Wills sentenced Smith to the maximum sentence of one to five years for each offense, and set those sentences to run consecutively. Smith will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Kelley asked the court to consider giving Smith probation since he was “having a hard time in jail” and “had been harassed.”
“I am truly sorry,” Smith told the court, adding he hoped to get out of jail and “get rid of the demons.”
“All they do is try to shove medicine down me and I don’t think medicine is going to help,” Smith said.
Wills denied this motion for probation.
“Mr. Smith, you are truly not a candidate for probation,” Will said. “Your self-serving statement makes me sick to my stomach. These crimes are despicable.”
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Pfeifer also represented the state at Tuesday’s hearing.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org