A man who received a mistrial from a hung jury in November pleaded guilty today to felony sexual battery against a child under 16 years of age.
Jeremiah J. Arriola, 32, pleaded guilty Dec. 28 to the lesser included offense of child molestation. Superior Court Judge Harold Hinesley sentenced him to five years, with three in confinement and two probation plus adherence to sex offender conditions.
A McDuffie County jury tried Arriola Oct. 30 through Nov. 3 for one count of cruelty to children in the first degree and two counts of child molestation for alleged acts with a female child relative under the age of 10 between January and December of 2016. The jury found him not guilty of one count of child molestation but was deadlocked on a second child molestation count. The jury returned a guilty verdict to the lesser-included offense of battery within a charge of cruelty to children in the first degree.
Superior Court Judge Harold Hinesley declared a mistrial on the deadlocked molestation count and set a bond of $30,000 after sentencing Arriola to a year in jail for the battery verdict . The mistrial based on the hung jury enabled another trial that resulted in the Dec. 28 guilty plea.
The McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office investigated a spanking of a female child by Arriola that resulted in marks left on the child’s legs and buttocks. The spanking occurred on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2016, and the McDuffie County Sheriff’s Office was called to a Hobbs Mill Road home Dec. 28, 2016, to investigate bruises.
Following the investigation of the complaint, Arriola was arrested and charged with cruelty to children in the first degree for “unlawfully and maliciously caus(ing) a child under the age of 18 years cruel and excessive physical pain by spanking her buttocks.” He had also been charged with child molestation for allegedly having the child perform sex acts.
After hours of deliberation, the jury found Arriola not guilty of performing a sex act on the child but was deadlocked on the molestation charge of the child performing a sex act upon Arriola. The jury found him guilty of battery for the spanking.
Arriola and his attorney George Bush of Augusta appeared in McDuffie County Superior Court Dec. 28 following a plea agreement worked out with Assistant District Attorney Kevin Majeska to plead to felony grade sexual battery.
Arriola pleaded guilty under Alford verses North Carolina which allows a defendant to maintain innocence but admit that the state has sufficient evidence to convict and agrees to be treated as guilty.
Majeska outlined the molestation charge as he did in the Oct. 30 through Nov. 3 trial and said that all parties agreed to a lesser offense of felony grade sexual battery against a child under 16 and that the sentence be capped at the three years.
“By pleading under Alford verses North Carolina, you understand that I could still sentence you,” Hinesley told Arriola. “Yes sir,” Arriola responded.
“Under Alford verses North Carolina you are not admitting guilt but you are saying it is your best interest to go forward,” the judge asked. “Yes sir,” was Arriola’s response.
“Under Alford verses North Carolina, even though you are not admitting that you have committed the act you will still have a criminal record,” Hinesley said. “Yes sir,” Arriola stated.
“There is also an agreement that there is sufficient evidence upon which he could be convicted,” Attorney Bush said.
Story courtesy of The McDuffie Progress