Sentencing in an otherwise routine plea in a sex case was delayed at the end of a July 20 hearing in Wilkes Superior Court.

Earl Dean Johnson, 57, of Hays remains charged with one count of first-degree sex offense and seven counts of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The victim in the case, now 16, was 11 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, said Assistant District Attorney Matthew Leach, prosecuting for the state.

The state, in a plea agreement, offered to let Johnson plead guilty to all indecent liberties charges and dismiss the first-degree sex offense, a much more serious charge.

Johnson accepted the plea as outlined by Judge Michael D. Duncan and pleaded guilty to the incident liberties charges.

The plea specified that Duncan impose an intermediate judgment to include probation and possible active incarceration as a split sentence, Leach said. Johnson would have had to register as a sex offender.

At the end of the hearing, Duncan declined to immediately accept the plea, holding the matter open until Wednesday. In Superior Court Wednesday, Duncan said he wanted more time to consider the plea and continued the hearing until the Sept. 8 session.

Leach, summarizing evidence during the sentencing hearing, said the offenses occurred at Johnson’s home. The victim was a foster child being raised by Johnson and his wife who has now been adopted by the couple.

Johnson was charged with sexually assaulting the girl with his finger on one occasion as she sat on his lap, along with, at various times, exposing himself to the girl, asking her to touch his private parts and other behavior, Leach said.

Attorney Randy Hincher, representing Johnson called three witnesses during the hearing, including a co-worker, the defendant’s wife and the victim’s adoptive sister.

Johnson’s wife said the victim had problems with anger and the adopted sister accused the victim of using drugs and consorting with men.

Duncan indicated that he wanted to make sure the victim had a safe and secure place to live before making his determination.

“At this point, the plea has not been formally accepted,” Leach said. “The court is considering its options and so is the state.”

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