The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office has placed Gus Harter, an 80 year old pastor, under arrest for child molestation.
According to reports, Gus and his wife adopted a total of nineteen children from the Philippines, where they built an orphanage and did missionary work. No details as to the accusation or allegation have been released.
As a Georgia Sex Crimes Attorney, I will outline the offense as well as the consequences of a conviction for child molestation in today's post.
Child Molestation in Georgia
Child molestation in Georgia is defined by Georgia Law in O.C.G.A. §16-6-4 as:
A person commits the offense of child molestation when the person either he or she does any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person; or by means of an electronic device, transmits images of a person engaging in, inducing, or otherwise participating in any immoral or indecent act to a child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person.
Child molestation is classified as a felony. If convicted of child molestation, a person is facing between five and twenty years in prison.
For any subsequent conviction, the penalty increases to a prison term between ten and thirty years or life in prison. However, just as with most other sex crimes in Georgia, if the victim is at between 14 and 16 years old and the person convicted of child molestation is 18 years or younger and no more than four years older than the victim, then the crime will be charged as a misdemeanor.
Moreover, a conviction for child molestation comes with the requirement that the defendant register as a Sex Offender in Georgia. If a person that has been convicted of child molestation elects not to register, then he or she is facing yet another criminal charge known as Failure to Register as a Sex Offender in Georgia.
The reality is that with most sexual offenses, people tend to immediately judge the situation and determine that the person accused is automatically guilty.
This is not how our system works. The presumption of innocence is the very basis of our criminal justice system. We understand this concept. If you or a loved one has been arrested, contact our offices today.