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Prosecutor agrees that abuser should face stiffer charge

The Letcher County Attorney’s Office is asking that the guilty plea and sentence of a Camp Branch man be overturned after he was sentenced to just 90 days on a sexual abuse charge.

Protestors took to the streets in Whitesburg on Tuesday, four days after the mother of the child involved found out 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.

Kentucky State Police interviewed the girl, but did not come to the county attorney for a warrant. Instead, the mother obtained a warrant and Gross was charged with third-degree sexual abuse on August 16. Family members are blaming County Attorney Jamie Hatton for the error, however he 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. District Judge Kevin Mullins sentenced him to the maximum 90 days in the county jail, with credit for eight days already served.

Hatton said it now turns out the girl was only 14, and the correct charge should have been first-degree sexual abuse, a Class D felony with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Steve Collins, 46, who said the girl is related to him, organized the protest this week, claiming corruption.

“The people of Letcher County should stand against sexual abuse,” he said. “We should stand up for our children and stand up to what’s going on in the courthouse.”

Hatton said he has told Collins that there is no conspiracy.

“It was a mistake and we’re going to fix it,” Hatton said.

Hatton filed a motion on August 30 for Mullins to set aside the judgment against Gross and the case be put on the docket for a pretrial conference as soon as possible.

The motion to set aside the case will be heard at 1 p.m., September 11, in Letcher District Court.

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