By Lyra Bordelon
A plea deal keeping a younger victim from having to testify in open court is the reason for the now-canceled trial of Calvin Bennett. The deal was accepted by Greenbrier County Circuit Court Judge Robert Richardson on Wednesday, April 28.
Bennett, a 64-year-old Rainelle resident, was indicted in October 2019 on two charges of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or person in a position of trust and two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree for alleged events Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via explained took place between June 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013.
“As it relates to the plea offered here today, the state would expect to show on the question of intent to commit sexual abuse in the first degree, that … Mr. Bennett did attempt to engage in sexual contact … [with] a child,” explained Via during the hearing. “… The child was at that time eight years of age and [Bennett was] 55 years of age. His attempt to do so was done for the purposes of sexual gratification on his part.”
The plea deal saw the dismissal of two counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or person in a position of trust, one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, and the reduction of the final charge to attempt to commit a felony, felony offense of sexual abuse in the first degree. Although Via noted evidence could be brought to trial, such as witness statements, victim statements, and police interviews and investigations, the reason for the plea was to protect the most affected party.
“In light of what, on the face of it, might appear to be a substantially compromised plea, [I want to inform the court that] I have, on multiple occasions, consulted with the victim of the matter as well as [their] mother,” Via explained, “In fact, I consulted with them as recently as yesterday. … It is my belief, confidently, based on those consultations, that they both understand the entirety of what we are presenting to the court today, are agreeable to it, have consented to it, and agree that it is in the best interest, in this case, our main victim to proceed.”
Before pleading, Bennett questioned how a felony conviction could affect his work. Richardson noted that if the court imposed legally possible restrictions, he could not go into certain homes or locations to work, preventing him from doing so.
Bennett then plead no contest to this reduced charge, resulting in Richardson finding him guilty.
The case is scheduled to go to sentencing after a presentencing report is completed, facing the possibility of a one to three year indeterminate sentence and the required registration as a sexual offender after release.