Wednesday, October 26, 2005

GALENA, Md. (AP) — A Kent County man convicted of molesting two Boy Scouts in the 1980s will not have to register as a sex offender after serving a prison sentence because the crime was long ago, a judge has ruled.

James Carl Combs, now 41 and living in Galena, was an assistant scoutmaster in Cecilton in the early 1980s, when he molested two boys, ages 12 and 14, a jury decided in August.

The charges came about after one of the victims, now in his 30s, recalled the sexual abuse during a psychotherapy session in November, said Detective 1st Class Adam Streight with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office.

The therapist followed state law in notifying police about the sex abuse, and Combs was convicted of a second-degree sex offense and five counts of sexual child abuse.

At Combs’ sentencing Monday, prosecutors asked for six years in prison, with Combs registering as a sex offender after his release.

State sentencing guidelines call for four to nine years in prison for the offenses.

Instead, Cecil County Circuit Court Judge O. Robert Lidums gave Combs a three-month term at the county jail and three months of house arrest.

Judge Lidums also decided that because Combs’ crimes predated Megan’s Law, which requires released sex offenders to register with police when they move into a community and for residents to be notified, Combs would not have to join the registry.

The light sentence disappointed one of the victims, who told the county newspaper, “It’s pretty sad. I’ve gone through years and years of therapy, and he only gets three months of jail and three months of home confinement.”

In Judge Lidums’ decision, he also noted Combs’ youth — he was 18 — at the time of the crimes.

At Combs’ sentencing hearing Monday, more than a dozen people testified on his behalf as character witnesses. A few expressed doubt over the jury’s verdict.

Also, 91 other friends and relatives of Combs, who is married and has an adult child, submitted letters to the court on his behalf.

The judge made Combs eligible for the work-release program at the Cecil County Detention Center and gave him five days to report to jail.

According to Detective Streight, Combs had been serving as a 4-H leader before the grand jury indicted him. Combs stopped volunteering with the organization after being charged.

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