Hoeck enters Alford plea, may avoid jail time

August 25, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

A former children's advocate and foster parent who was charged with sexual abuse may not have to spend any time in jail if his plea bargain is accepted by a Boyle County Circuit Judge.

Stephen Hoeck entered an "Alford plea" to a misdemeanor charge of third-degree criminal abuse today before Judge Darren Peckler as part of a plea agreement. The charge was amended down from first-degree criminal abuse and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse would be dismissed under the arrangement.

Hoeck entered what's known as an "Alford plea" to the misdemeanor criminal abuse charge, which his attorney, Ephraim Helton, explained as a way for his client to maintain his innocence but acknowledge that there is enough evidence against him that a jury might find him guilty.

Hoeck would be sentenced to 12 months in jail but would not have to serve it unless he violated the terms of his two-year supervised probation.


Peckler said he wants to see a victim's impact statement and a check of Hoeck's criminal record, among other things, before deciding whether to accept the agreement. Final sentencing is set for Oct. 5.

Hoeck, 27, of 9231 Perryville Road, was the former president of the Boyle/Mercer Task Force on Child Abuse and former president of the local chapter of Court Appointed Special Advocate, an organization that shepherds minor children through the court system.

He was indicted in June 2003 on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse involving a male child who was in his custody as a foster parent. He was also charged with first-degree criminal abuse involving a younger male child who was in his care.,

Helton said his client was happy with the plea bargain and "now we just hope and pray the judge accepts it." "We are pleased that any reference to the sexual charges are being recommended to be dismissed," Helton said. "That was something Steve was adamant about."

Child involved in the charges has turned 18 and can't be located

Commonwealth's Attorney Richard Bottoms said he recommended that the two sexual abuse charges be dismissed because the child involved in those charges has since turned 18, is no longer involved with state agencies and could not be readily located.

"The one witness in this case is now 18 and has left the direction of Social Services and he has not been available," Bottoms said.

Bottoms said, however, that under the plea agreement the sexual abuse charges would be dismissed without prejudice, meaning that they could be brought again at a later date if the witness is located and wants to pursue the charges.

"We don't want it to go away, but we do need the victim's involvement," Bottoms said.

Bottoms said he agreed to allow Hoeck to plea to only a misdemeanor on the charge involving the younger boy, who is still involved with Social Services and available to testify against Hoeck, because he thought the ordeal of taking the case to court could be damaging to the child. Bottoms said he discussed the plea agreement with the boy's father and social worker, who agreed it was best to avoid a trial. "On behalf of the commonwealth, we feel that it would be in the child's best interest to dispose of it in this manner," Bottoms said.

Under the terms of Hoeck's probation, he will not be allowed to have contact with children as a foster parent. He will also have to report regularly with his probation officer, perform community service and not commit any other crimes.

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