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Trinity Standard - Local News

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Child molester sentenced to 170 years
Trinity Standard -

GROVETON – An Apple Springs man who pled guilty to an indecency with a child at the start of his trial was found guilty on two additional aggravated sexual assault charges by a Trinity County jury. James "Scott" Frels, 41 was sentenced to a total of 170 years in prison by the jury. District Attorney Bennie Schiro said all three charges related to a single 13-year-old victim. The trial got underway on Monday, March 4, before 258th District Judge Elizabeth Coker in Groveton. Frels and his attorney surprised everyone when he entered the guilty plea to the indecency charge while pleading not guilty to three sexual assault charges. "Usually defendants plead not guilty to the charges which are read before the jury as a formality before the actual trial begins," Schiro said. "In all my cases before juries, I have never seen a defendant plead guilty to a count at that point in the trial." Following testimony, the jury found Frels guilty on two of the three remaining charges around noon on March 5. Later that afternoon, the jury heard a little more evidence during the punishment phase of trial and announced its verdict of 75 years confinement in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice on each count of aggravated sexual assault as well as 20 years for the count of indecency with a child that Frels had plead guilty to earlier. Judge Coker proceeded to pronounce the punishment as announced by the jury and sign the order and judgment before Frels was taken into custody. Following the trial, Schiro voiced his appreciation to the Trinity County residents who appeared for jury duty. "We had a small turnout of jurors on this case so I wanted to thank those who did attend. "The reaction most people have when receiving that notice to appear for jury duty is not usually a favorable one. However news of a child molester receiving a sentence of 170 years in TDCJ is taken as positive by most in the community. Results like this CANNOT be achieved without a good jury panel from the community," he added, "I just want to remind everyone that this justice system's backbone is a jury trial. I often tell juries that they create the 'measuring stick' by which the criminal justice system operates. "What I mean is if criminals know juries from Trinity County will let them 'get off easy' then all will want to take their chances with a jury. Also if juries take a light stance on crime, it severely limits the prosecutors of this county as to plea bargains. "For a plea bargain to be something a defendant will accept, it must be more beneficial to them than a jury trial and therefore must be a better outcome than the defendant would expect to receive from a jury. "On the other hand, this Frels case is a perfect example of how the jury system can send the message that Trinity County will not tolerate crime. Imagine what is going on in the co-defendant's mind after a sentence like that. "So, please just remember when you receive that jury notice in the mail that you are essential to the criminal justice system in YOUR community. If you want to be a part of that system, please joyfully accept that duty. Remember in most cases, even ones as serious as this one, the jury was only in service for three days. "When thinking about giving three days of your time to improve your community, please remember those men and women that serve everyday of their lives for you and me, like the police officers who put their lives on the line every day, the firefighters who don't get paid but at a moment's notice stop whatever they are doing when duty calls and risk their lives, and our soldiers who are overseas everyday away from their family and friends putting their lives on the line for a better country. Jury duty is a very small price to pay to live in a community like this one," Schiro said.


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