|San Rafael man, 42, admits sex with girl he met at mall|
Posted: 06/10/2010 07:37:40 PM PDT
A 42-year-old San Rafael man pleaded guilty Thursday to having sex with a teenage girl he dubbed "Jale Bate."
James Ralph Betts has the chance to avoid prison time in the plea arrangement, but he will have a felony record and is required to register as a sex offender for life.
The plea also spares the 17-year-old victim the ordeal of testifying in court, said Deputy District Attorney Nicole Pantaleo.
"The family's wish was for a felony plea and registration," Pantaleo said. "All in all, I think it's a fair disposition given the circumstances of the case."
The investigation began in March after the victim's parents discovered electronic messages between the girl and a man.
The parents and the girl identified the man as Betts and told him their daughter was underage, but the suspect continued seeing the girl, whom he had met at Northgate Mall in Terra Linda.
San Rafael police arrested Betts at his home in Terra Linda, finding suspected methamphetamine and a pipe during the arrest.
Betts had the girl's phone number saved to his cell phone under the code name "Jale Bate," according to court documents.
Betts was scheduled to appear in court Thursday for a preliminary examination of the evidence by Judge Andrew Sweet. Instead, Betts decided to take the plea deal.
"It was a compromise," said Jon Rankin, one of his defense attorneys. "They made him an offer he couldn't refuse."
Under the plea bargain, the district attorney's office dropped two molestation counts and agreed to seek a jail sentence of time already served.
Sweet warned Betts that he could still be sentenced to three years in prison if he violates his probation.
Betts had no criminal record prior to the case