State Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Wednesday he will investigate the circumstances that resulted in an admitted child rapist getting only one year in jail.
Edmondson said he was “outraged and disturbed at the outcome of the case” that has attracted national attention.
David Earls, 64, pleaded no contest on May 13 to raping a 5-year-old girl but had all but one year of a 20-year prison sentence suspended under a plea-bargain agreement.
The agreement was offered by Earls' lawyer and accepted by District Attorney Jim Bob Miller and Judge Thomas Bartheld even though Earls had two prior felony convictions, including an assault offense.
“My office is looking into the facts of the case and the plea bargain and examining state statues and case law to determine what, if any, remedy may be available to the state,” said Edmondson in a written statement.
Miller and Bartheld said they agreed to the plea bargain to protect the child victim from further trauma and to make sure Earls did not get off without punishment in the event she could not testify against him at a trial.
“It took two days to get her to say, ‘I swear to tell the truth,’” said Miller. “How is she going to get up now (at a trial) and answer personal questions about what this guy did to her?”
A motion filed in February by the prosecutor to allow the child victim to testify at Earls’ trial by closed circuit TV was rejected by Judge Bartheld.
But three months later, the judge held a hearing on the motion, with Earls and the child present in his courtroom. During the proceeding, the girl covered her eyes with her hands and said, “I’m not looking at David Earls. I’m not looking at David Earls.”
The judge then recessed the hearing to two days later without Earls present, and the child victim was qualified as a witness who knew the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie.
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