SOUTH BEND -- More than four years after he was charged with child molesting and sexual misconduct with a minor, a 60-year-old South Bend man was sentenced Wednesday to four years on probation.
Kelvin Williams pleaded guilty in December to one count of sexual misconduct with a minor, a Class C felony. As part of a binding plea agreement, the state dismissed the three remaining charges against Williams: two counts of child molesting and another count of sexual misconduct with a minor. The agreement also called for Williams to receive a suspended sentence, meaning he would not actually serve time in prison.
St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha said he rarely accepts binding pleas in such cases.
"But after speaking with the lawyers and being advised as to why this is appropriate," Marnocha said, "I decided to go ahead with the plea."
Williams was charged by St. Joseph County prosecutors in 2007, accused of performing sexual acts on a young boy and touching him inappropriately between 2003 and 2006, when the boy was 12, 13 and 14 years old.
Williams was a family friend of the victim, and the molestation occurred when the victim would spend the night at his house, according to court documents.
"This is someone whom I trusted implicitly with my child," the victim's mother said in court Wednesday. She added later: "The day I found out my son was sexually abused ... I seriously felt like I would die, like someone had punched me in the stomach and ripped my heart from my chest."
She told the court that she trusted Williams because he was a licensed foster parent with the state and a good family friend.
The Tribune is not naming the mother to protect the victim's identity.
The boy told authorities about Williams' actions while the boy was being questioned in a separate juvenile case in which he was accused of molesting his sibling, according to testimony at Wednesday's sentencing.
"I strongly believe none of this would have happened had Mr. Williams not abused my son," the mother said.
Williams was arrested Oct. 10, 2007, and spent nine days in jail before posting $7,500 bond and being released.
He appeared at his sentencing Wednesday wearing a brown wool coat and dress slacks. He did not address the court when the judge gave him the opportunity.
The state twice attempted to take Williams to trial, but both times it ended without a verdict, according to court records. At his first trial, in July 2009, Williams was hospitalized on the first day of testimony and St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jerome Frese vacated the trial. In the second, in September 2011, officials were unable to find enough jurors, according to court records, and the trial was reset for January.
The case was moved to Marnocha's courtroom in December because of a scheduling conflict, according to court officials.
Court records indicate the victim, who is now an adult, wanted the case laid to rest.
"This plea was offered in accordance with the victim's desire to resolve this matter without a trial, and in recognition of the defendant's failing health and lack of criminal history," the plea agreement reads.
Liz Hurley represented the state but is no longer employed with the prosecutor's office after becoming a magistrate judge in January.
"It's always a risk going to trial," said Christy Haws, who represented the state at Wednesday's hearing, but who was not privy to the negotiations leading to the plea agreement since it was not her case. "In this particular case, based on what he was pleading guilty to, it was going to be a permanent felony conviction, an offense that he would be mandated by law to register as a sex offender for 10 years, that was something we knew would be a guarantee."
Marnocha also issued a no-contact order against Williams, forbidding him from having contact with the victim.
The victim's mother had asked that Williams pay restitution for the costs of the victim's therapy and counseling. But Marnocha denied the request, noting that the Indiana Court of Appeals has been re-examining when restitution is appropriate and the need for a clear nexus between the crime and counseling he received several years later.
"I just don't think based on the evidence I heard that it's appropriate at this point in the criminal case to impose (restitution)," Marnocha said. "Whether there's a civil remedy is another story."
Williams faced a sentence of between two and eight years on the Class C felony. The judge sentenced him to four years, and suspended the sentence, placing him on probation for four years.
The judge told Williams if he does not follow the terms of probation, he will be sent to prison.
Had Williams been sentenced on all the felonies for which he was originally charged (Class A felony child molesting, Class C felony child molesting, Class B felony sexual conduct with a minor and Class C felony sexual misconduct with a minor) he could have faced up to 86 years in prison.
Staff writer Mary Kate Malone: