Staff writer's note: The victim's family asked to remain anonymous as they continue to deal with the implications of the case. This is the first of three stories about child molestation cases in Liberty County.
"My understanding was when you sign the paperwork and you admit you are guilty, you go to
jail," John Doe said, admitting he’s angry that a man who molested his daughter was able to plead guilty and not serve a prison term. "He was charged with child molestation and the guy is still walking the street."
Doe is angry because his for-
mer neighbor, Harry Jimenez, continues to live as usual while his Doe’s family was forced to move and his daughter continues to struggle.
According to public files, Jimenez was charged with one count of child molestation when he reportedly performed an immoral, indecent act with Doe's daughter, who was under the age of 16 at the time of the crime almost three years ago.
Doe said his daughter and Jimenez's daughter were friends who had occasional sleepovers, sometimes at the Does and sometimes at Jimenez's house.
"He took advantage on that one night when he was drunk and
my daughter was able to escape
and came back over to our house," Doe said of the night of Oct. 21, 2005, when his daughter ran home and recounted the story to her parents.
"The incident was investigated. He was arrested and bonded out
of jail,” Doe said. “A court date was set but he pled before the court date. The house we had in Hinesville was across the street from him, roughly two doors down. After the incident, Jimenez and his common law wife moved a few blocks away. Afterward, we moved to Riceboro and he moved back to his original house. He's been able to work, he is on his third DUI, he's just a model citizen, you know. On his third DUI he had his kids in the car with him, endangering his kids. It's not right."
After Jimenez was formally charged Nov. 27, 2006, Magistrate judge David L. Trey denied bond, saying the court thought the accused posed a threat to the victim. However, Jiminez was able to post bond after a hearing Dec.7, 2006.
At first, Jimenez entered a formal plea of not guilty on Dec. 18, 2007, but just before a jury trial was scheduled for July 2008, he opted for a plea agreement.
Jimiznes received 10 years probation because he was listed as a first-time offender on the charge.
According to public record, Liberty County Superior Court Judge David L. Cavender signed the order that allowed the court to deviate from the mandatory minimum sentence of five years because (1) the defendant has no prior felony convictions; (2) the defendant did not use a weapon during the commission of the offense; (3) there is no evidence of a similar crime by the defendant; (4) the victim did not suffer any intentional physical harm during the commission of the offense; (5) the offense did not involve the transportation of the victim; (6) the victim was not physically restrained during the commission of the offense.
But Doe said harm was done and it still affects his family.
"It affected my daughter psychologically," Doe said. "We have to check the house before she goes to sleep. She doesn't sleep in her bedroom anymore. She has to have the outside lights on. She locks all the door and windows. Long term, this will affect her relationships. She's gone through counseling at Helen's Haven. I can tell you she will have long term issues with this. She doesn't want to talk about it, think about it. When she saw his picture on the national sex offender Web site, it scared her.
“Emotionally, she cries and that is just her. My wife and I sat in bed the first night after the incident and we were talking and I put my arm around my wife but all she and I could think about was what Harry had done to her. In these kinds of cases, there should be no first time or second time. It should be that one time. It's a very long-term, long-lasting situation. It's not like the person stole my car or shot my dog. This is a long-term and emotional long-lasting thing."
As part of his probation sentence, Jimenez was ordered to have no contact at all with the victim and her family. He also was ordered to undergo mandatory alcohol counseling and serve 365-410 days at a probation detention center but only when bed space becomes available.
As of Sept. 30, he has yet to serve a day.
"I would work to find that bed space," Doe said when asked what he would do if he was a judge. "It's been two years since this happened, two years."
A probation detention center is a minimum security facility for confining probationers. Offenders may be sent directly to the center as a sentencing option or, if someone proves unable to fulfill their probation obligations in the community, may be sent to the detention center as a result of a revocation proceeding.
Paul Czachowski, public affairs manager for the Probation Detention Centers said it generally takes six weeks for a bed to become available.
"We do a waiting list and whoever is first is scheduled when a bed becomes available," he said. "Keep in mind he is on probation and he is not just free as a bird."
Czachowski said probation officers have the right to check in on Jimenez unannounced.
Czachowski said Jimenez will serve his time soon.
"It's the first bed available no matter where it is," he said. "I can tell you this he has been scheduled, so it won't be long."
Doe said finding the bed space and getting Jimenez off the streets will help bring some closure to his family, although temporary.
There are 19 probation detention centers currently in operation with a total of 3,342 beds. Three centers house women (a total of 532 beds). A center in Bacon County is expected to open in the next year, adding up to 200 beds.