No jail time for sex offender

Friday, January 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A plea agreement has an accused sex offender walking free and several Bixby families struggling to understand why. It took three years to bring the case to trial, and parents believe that delay cost their daughters a shot at justice.

Gary Wayne Jackson was arrested in December of 1998 on more than a dozen charges involving child molestation. Prosecutors say Jackson molested five neighborhood girls, ages four to eleven. Now, three years later, all but five of the charges have been dismissed. Jackson pleaded no contest to assault with intent to commit a felony. "Um, I have nothing to say."

The families of the girls Jackson was accused of molesting say the system failed them. Victim's mother, Shonna Bridgewater, "I don't know what I'm going to tell my little girl. What do you tell a child that's come forth with all of this? How do you tell her the judge didn't hear you." Roberta Allen says she won't be able to tell her daughter that Jackson isn't in jail, for fear her little girl won't be able to sleep at night. She says facing Jackson in court was difficult and affected her daughter's testimony of what happened. "She was left in a room with the perpetrator and the defense counsel and a district attorney she didn't know and she wasn't able to speak. She was scared."

The plea agreement means Jackson will face no jail time. And, because the molestation and sodomy charges were dismissed, Jackson won't be required to register as a sex offender. The families didn't want to take the plea agreement. "The things that children four and five years old said happened to them, if a jury had heard them speak, there's no way a jury wouldn't have believed what happened to them.”

Prosecutor Steve Sewell says the District Attorney's office felt it was in the best interest of the young girls to not put them on the stand and that the plea agreement was a way to hold Jackson accountable for something. But, the families say it wasn't enough. "Somewhere in this big stack of papers that sat on the defense counsel’s desk, at the very bottom of that stack is what happened to our children and that seems to have been forgotten.”

Prosecutors recommended Jackson serve a minimum of 15 years probation. He'll also have to pay fines and perform 80 hours of community service. Sentencing is set for March 4th.