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Mobtown Beat

Sexton Pleads Guilty

Deal ends 30-year-old child molestation case

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Douglas Lester Sexton reminds Circuit Court Judge Pamela White that he owned businesses. Wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt, he talks about his coal-miner father, about joining the army at age 17 to support his family. Until now, he has “never been in trouble in my life,” he says.

Sexton, until recently the owner of the JHJ Saloon on Eastern Avenue, is pleading guilty to sexually abusing two little girls back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He hired them as babysitters for his handicapped daughter, paying off the girls’ parents or grandparents with free drinks and small cash gifts, according to the victims. He used the girls sexually, starting at age 7, ending when the second was about 16, according to the criminal complaints filed in 2010 and 2011.

As part of a plea deal, Sexton is agreeing to spend nearly five months in prison, then a year of home detention, and five years of supervised probation.

“My wife doesn’t drive,” Sexton says. “I have to do all these things [to take care of his handicapped daughter]. I don’t care about myself. I care about them. And I hate like anything to say I’m guilty. I hate that.”

After he is released from jail, Sexton will not be allowed to drive his daughter to the doctor without his probation officer’s permission. He must register as a sex offender—and reregister every six months thereafter. Sexton also must submit to sex screening and treatment. He must submit a DNA sample, and he will not be allowed to contact any children under 18 years of age.

“I never thought anything like this could happen to a person like me,” Sexton tells the judge. “If they think I’ve done anything wrong, I apologize.”

Sexton almost avoided the guilty plea. In 2011, after a two-hour examination by a state psychiatrist, he was found mentally unfit to stand trial and sent back to his bar by Judge Gale Rasin. Sexton seemed to be on track to be declared permanently incompetent to stand trial, and some in his Fells Point neighborhood thought he was gaming the system (“Keeping Secrets,” Feature, March 14).In February, Rasin ordered Sexton re-examined on an in-patient basis. (“Committed,” Mobtown Beat, April 4). Sexton spent nearly six weeks in the Clifton T. Perkins hospital, where he made remarkable strides in his mental well-being.

The case had been set for trial on Tuesday, July 10. There, Sexton was offered a plea bargain in which he’d admit guilt in exchange for five year’s incarceration (15 years, with 10 suspended). “I can’t take five years ’cause I’ll be dead,” Sexton, 77, said. Jury trial was set for July 16.

By 1:30 P.M. on that day, the current deal was reached. Instead of a 15-year sentence, with all but five years suspended, Sexton would get all but six months suspended, with credit for his time in Perkins, but would have to serve one year under home confinement after his jail term. “I do find that the plea is made voluntarily and with full understanding of the rights you have waived,” Judge White said from the bench. “And I do find you guilty of sexual abuse of a minor.”

Before the sentencing, Sexton’s victims make impact statements. Jason Silverstein, Sexton’s lawyer, admonishes his client loudly before the statements were read: “You cannot make comments during their speech,” he tells Sexton, who is still wearing court-supplied earphones. “It is rude to them, and it is rude to the court.”

The prosecutor, Assistant State’s Attorney Jerry Jones, objects to the sentence, reiterating that it should be no less than five year’s incarceration. He then reads the statement of Jeannie Virts, one of Sexton’s victims, as Virts looks on from her mobility scooter.

“I’ve been through so much, but he doesn’t think he’s hurt me in any way,” the statement says in part. “I don’t have childhood friends because I wasn’t allowed out of the house.” Jones’ voice breaks slightly as he reads, and later he dabs tears from his cheek.

“My only friend was a 2-year-old—now how much fun was that?” Jones recites. “But I loved her, and I still do. I never wanted to hurt her; I took care of her 24 hours, 7 days a week. She was like a real-live baby doll. I fed her, bathe[d] her, changed her, played with her. I was just like her mother, and Douglas Sexton always said that, and he used her for an excuse: ‘If you ever tell anyone they will take her away.’

“So I never told.”

Jane Wilson, the other victim, who claimed Sexton began sexually molesting her when she was just 7 years old, makes her own statement. In the court is her sister, but she sits with Sexton’s family and had taunted Wilson during a break in the proceedings.

“Someday I will forgive him,” Wilson said of Sexton. “I don’t hate him.”

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