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Judge sets aside man’s guilty plea in sex abuse case

Letcher District Judge Kevin Mullins has set aside the guilty plea of a Camp Branch man accused of misdemeanor sexual abuse and amended the charge against him to a felony.

Glen Evan Gross Jr., 30, of 5033 Highway 931N, had already been sentenced in the crime, which family members and the prosecutor now say involved a 14-year-old girl, and should have been charged as a felony, not a misdemeanor as it was originally. The Letcher County Attorney’s Office asked that the guilty plea be overturned after he was sentenced to just 90 days on a thirddegree sexual abuse charge — the maximum sentence for the charge.

The sentence sparked a protest in front of the Letcher County courthouse, and a week later the mother of the victim in the case obtained a criminal summons charging Steven C. Collins, 46, of Camp Branch, the organizer of the protest, with harassment.

Kentucky State Police interviewed the girl, but did not go to the county attorney for a warrant. Instead, they directed the mother to obtain a warrant and Gross was charged with third-degree sexual abuse on August 16. County Attorney Jamie Hatton said he believed the girl was 16, which would make the crime a misdemeanor. He also said the arraignment had been scheduled for August 28, but was moved up to August 23.

When Gross came up for arraignment, he pleaded guilty without making a plea agreement and without a prosecutor present in the courtroom, Hatton said. Judge Mullins sentenced Gross to the maximum 90 days in the county jail, with credit for eight days already served.

Mullins on September 26 set aside guilty plea in response to Hatton’s motion, and amended the charge to first-degree sexual abuse. The new charge is a Class D felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Gross waived his right to a preliminary hearing and the case has been sent to the grand jury.

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