By Patric Hedlund
LEBEC (Monday, Feb. 8, 2010)—James Schaffer of Lebec agreed to a plea bargain Monday morning, Feb. 8, just as the jury was about to be called for his trial on three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child 13 years of age or younger, according to Kern County Prosecutor Kim Marshall. Marshall said the charges cover a range of actions, from inappropriate touching to rape of a minor.
In the fall of 2006 Schaffer was charged with molesting three Mountain Community girls.Through a series of defense attorney tactics and a notable array of medical reasons for seeking continuances, the Lebec resident evaded trial for four years.
Though the alleged crimes took place around 2005, a prior lead deputy in the Mountain Communities "had done minimal work on the case," a source said, leaving the prosecutors with inadequate evidence. The investigative work of Kern County Sheriff’s Senior Deputy Vince Martinez (now promoted to Sergeant) is credited by families with having solid charges brought by the District Attorney. "He [Martinez] followed up and did a wonderful job," Marshall said.
Schaffer rejected earlier plea bargain offers as late as Friday, Feb. 5, "because he said he didn’t want to be registered as a sex offender," according to one victim’s father. The prosecutor acknowledged Monday that Schaffer may have been motivated to agree to plead "no contest" to one count the following Monday morning, Feb. 8 when he learned that, if the case went to trial, Judge John Brownlee had agreed to allow testimony by two prior victims. Those prior victims, according to court records, are Schaffer’s nieces.
According to the the prosecutor, if Schaffer had been found guilty on all three counts by a jury, he could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison per child victim. "If convicted on all charges and all enhancements, it could have been 45 years to life in prison, if the jury found there were multiple victims," Marshall said.
By pleading "no contest" to one count, Schaffer faces from three to eight years in prison and registration as a sex offender. Sentencing will take place on April 5. The victims and their parents will be allowed to speak to the court at that hearing.
Schaffer is a well-known figure in the Mountain Communities, performing in a 10-gallon hat, cowboy vest, bandana and boots with local bands, including a "worship band" that appeared in churches throughout the region.
This is part of the February 05, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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