HOLLIDAYSBURG - The prosecutor in a Blair County child-sexual abuse case agreed Friday to accept a plea agreement under which the perpetrator will serve a long period of probation rather than go to jail.
It avoids putting the child victim, now 9, through the trauma of a trial for the second time this year, Blair County Assistant District Attorney Daniel Kiss said.
A second trial "would have destroyed this girl further. This is about what the child wants, and the child has to come first," Kiss said.
"It's her well-being that has to come before anything else," he said.
Kiss said after the first trial that while the youngster seemed fine, but any mention of the criminal case caused her to "shut down."
Blair County Judge Elizabeth Doyle accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Paul E. Downs, 31, of Bigler Drive, Martinsburg, to 7 years' probation.
"This is not the perfect outcome," Kiss said.
Doyle made the point that the probationary sentence probably wasn't the outcome either side wanted.
"Nobody is happy here. Nobody is getting what they want," she said.
Downs has contended for more than two years that he did not sexually abuse the girl, then 4.
Downs repeated his story during a January trial, calling the charges, including child rape and statutory sexual assault, "ridiculous."
When he appeared before Doyle on Friday afternoon, Downs entered no-contest pleas to endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of a minor, with the more serious offenses being dismissed.
Downs went to trial before a jury in January. The jury couldn't come up with a verdict and Doyle declared a mistrial.
Kiss decided in March to retry the case. As the retrial approached, defense attorney R. Thomas Forr Jr. and Kiss decided on the plea agreement.
The trial in January had a traumatic effect on the youngster, Kiss said. After the trial, she began to have nightmares, and this was regarded as a setback in her effort to move ahead in her life, he said.
Downs also indicated he wanted the case to come to an end.
The case came to the attention of authorities in an unusual way.
The girl was taken in 2010 to the Children' Resource Center in Harrisburg, which specializes in the questioning of very young child-abuse victims because of suspicions the child and others had been abused by their baby-sitter, a teenage girl.
At the end of that session, the girl was asked if she had ever seen anybody else naked and at that point, she related the incident that allegedly occurred with Downs, authorities said.
The girl was not in court Friday, but Doyle said she received an "emotional" victim's impact statement from her.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.