A Clark County family is outraged after the man who was sent to prison for 10 years for sexually assaulting their then 7-year-old daughter has been set free because of an error in his original trial.
James Gibson, 42, formerly of Park Layne, has been released from prison after he was granted an appeal from the Ohio Supreme Court in his 2013 child rape case.
In the case, Gibson pleaded guilty in an Alford plea to two counts of gross sexual imposition in 2013. An Alford plea means the defendant does not admit their guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence in the case to find them guilty.
At his 2013 sentencing hearing, Gibson told the judge he only pleaded guilty to two counts of gross sexual imposition as part of a deal with the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office to avoid a possible life sentence on a rape charge.
The Ohio Supreme Court, in a December ruling, ruled, “The trial court erred when it misinformed the appellant that he would automatically receive a life sentence if he was convicted of rape of a child under the age of 10 as charged in the indictment,” according to court records.
Before the plea agreement was struck, the prosecution told Gibson if he were convicted on the rape charges he was facing, he would serve a mandatory sentence of life in prison, and so Gibson took the plea deal, Gibson’s lawyer wrote in his appeal case filing.
But in Ohio Revised Code sentencing guidelines, the three rape charges Gibson was indicted on did not specify he would serve life in prison, according to the Supreme Court appeal decision.
As a result of this confusion in the plea agreement, Gibson’s Alford plea “was not knowingly, intelligently, nor voluntarily made,” the Supreme Court judges ruled.
He was granted an appeal, his trial has been re-opened and he is scheduled to go to trial in March, said Clark County Prosecutor Andrew Wilson.
Appeals like Gibson’s do not happen often, Wilson said, but he was granted a new trial and the prosecutor’s office will move forward with the new case.
Gibson faces three charges of rape of a child under the age of 10, which carries a possible life sentence, according to court documents.
Gibson is accused of sexually abusing a girl whom he knows, investigators said. The girl was 7 when the assault started. The abuse was discovered after the child was examined at Dayton Children’s Hospital for an unrelated issue.
The victim’s father, who is not being identified in order to protect the victim, said his family finds it hard to understand how a once-convicted child molester has been set free.
“To me it’s absolutely ridiculous, but … the law is written a certain way,” he said. “It’s even worse this time because it’s like ripping open a wound that just healed.”
He is also disturbed that a judge has granted Gibson a “own recognizance” bond in the new case.
“If you’re charged with three counts of rape on a child under the age of 10, you shouldn’t be walking the streets,” he said. “You’re not guilty at (this) point, but you shouldn’t be walking around.”
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