ROGERSVILLE - A Mount Carmel man who briefly served as a civilian chaplain for the Mount Carmel Police Department was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday in exchange for a guilty plea to aggravated sexual battery of a child.
Charles Andle Jones, 62, 409 Gallep Ave., Mount Carmel, hadn't officially been charged as of Thursday morning when he appeared in Hawkins County Circuit Court before Judge John Dugger.
Grand jury presentments were prepared and would likely have gone before the Hawkins County grand jury in September.
Instead, Jones opted to plead guilty "by information" Thursday and forgo the grand jury process. As part of a plea agreement reached with Attorney General Berkeley Bell, Jones pleaded guilty Thursday to only one count of aggravated sexual battery, although the MCPD was prepared to present four charges to the grand jury.
Jones reportedly signed a written confession admitting to fondling two girls under the age of 12 on four occasions in November 2006.
As part of the plea agreement, Jones must serve 100 percent of his sentence.
Mount Carmel Police Chief Jeff Jackson said Jones approached him in early 2006 and volunteered to be chaplain for the police department. Jones was officially named to that position around Jan. 1 of this year but hadn't had time to conduct any official act for the department before the sexual battery allegations came forth.
The allegations were initially made to the Department of Children's Services in April, which then contacted the MCPD. The two agencies conducted a joint investigation led by MCPD Lt. Kevin Ewing which resulted in Jones' subsequent confession and guilty plea.
As chaplain, Jones would have been called on to accompany police officers on death notifications or provide comfort to families when tragedy strikes. He was not a peace officer, and the position was purely volunteer.
A background check was conducted on Jones prior to his appointment to MCPD chaplain. Jackson said that prior to these allegations Jones' record and reputation were spotless.
"I've known him for years, and this was not something that I would have expected out of him," Jackson said. "You can never know about people. You're never 100 percent sure."
Dugger noted during Thursday's court proceedings that the mothers of both victims, as well as Ewing, had signed a paper endorsing the plea agreement. Jones could have faced up to 12 years in prison on each of the four counts had the cases gone to trial.
Among the other guilty pleas heard before Dugger Thursday were:
•Jessica Marie Manis, 21, 226 Church Road, Church Hill, who was sentenced to three years in prison with 30 percent release eligibility in exchange for a guilty plea to attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery involving a 11-year-old female victim.
•Gina Marie Viviano, 24, 111 Southfork Ranch, Rogersville, who was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $500 in exchange for guilty pleas to five counts of forgery.
•And on Tuesday, Dugger heard Thomas F. Howard, 61, 151 Willard Lawson Road, Rogersville, who was sentenced to eight years in prison with 30 percent release eligibility and a $2,000 fine in exchange for a guilty plea to attempted second-degree murder.