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By Preston Knightfirstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- An Ashland man has been sentenced to serve a year in jail for taking indecent liberties with a 10-year-old girl.
Timothy A. Montgomery, 32, was sentenced by Shenandoah County Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Wednesday to serve 15 years in prison, with all but a year in jail suspended, for the sex offense and distributing a drug as an accommodation. He previously entered an Alford plea of guilty to the indecent liberties charge, which is not an outright admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment that the prosecution may have enough evidence to win a conviction.
Montgomery maintains that he did not commit the crime, and said he made the plea because he did not want the girl to have to testify in court. Also, as part of the admission of guilt, a more serious charge of aggravated sexual battery was reduced.
According to court records, the New Market Police Department received a report of inappropriate touching of a 10-year-old girl Aug. 12. A woman told police her granddaughter indicated Montgomery had touched her private parts about two years before.
During an interview Aug. 19 in Winchester, the girl advised that the man had touched her underneath her underwear, records state.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ken Alger said the girl was watching a show about sex abusers when she said to her grandmother, "That happened to me."
He said Montgomery has a substance abuse problem and questions what the man remembers about the incident, later adding that the girl mentioned Montgomery was acting strangely.
The court hearing focused much on sentencing guidelines in the case.
Alger said if a defendant is charged with indecent liberties and has no prior record, guidelines would call for straight probation, and no time behind bars.
Montgomery was convicted in January 2010 in relation to an incident where he was passed out in his car, and his 6-year-old child had to call 911, Alger said.
"It's indicative of his serious substance abuse problem," he said to the judge. "If you put him out into the street, it will be the same thing all over again."
Defense attorney Charles Ramsey said his client is now sober, and his risk of committing another sex crime has been determined to be low. He asked Hupp that if he were to exceed the guidelines as Alger requested, to not go above 12 months in jail.
That was eventually the judge's decision. Hupp said the sex offense was a "horrendous" thing, but acknowledged that touching, without penetration, is a milder form of abuse, and that the commonwealth had a difficult case to prosecute because the offense occurred two years before it was reported.
Still, he gave Montgomery a less than mild final thought.
"You're on thin ice with this court," Hupp said.