A 39-year-old man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to passing a note to a 12-year-old girl on a Modesto transit bus, asking her to have sex with him in exchange for money.
Billy Dale Freeman was convicted of contacting or communicating with a minor for the purpose of committing a sexual offense, which is a felony.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen sentenced Freeman to 360 days in jail for the felony charge and for violating his probation.
Freeman is deaf and was assisted by a court-appointed American Sign Language interpreter, who communicated with the defendant and the judge through videoconferencing.
When Steffen asked Freeman whether he was admitting to passing the note to the 12-year-old girl on Oct. 17, Freeman said through the interpreter, "I didn't realize she was 12. She didn't look 12."
Nevertheless, Freeman pleaded guilty to the charge.
Had the case reached the preliminary hearing phase, Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees told the judge, the evidence would have shown that Freeman passed the note to the girl, identified in court as "Jane Doe."
The prosecutor said the girl made it clear to Freeman that she refused his proposal and handed the note back to the defendant. The bus driver became aware of what happened and told Freeman to get off the bus.
Freeman has been held on the felony charge at the Stanislaus County Jail since Nov. 7. Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Freeman Nov. 12.
The defendant will be required to provide a DNA sample to be submitted to a statewide database. Once he's released from jail, the defendant will have to serve three years of probation.
If Freeman violates his probation, the judge said he could order the defendant to serve up to six years in prison for the crime he committed. If he commits a similar crime, the judge said his punishment could be doubled.
Freeman will be required to register as a sex offender and stay away from schools, parks and any place frequented by children. The defendant told the judge he will stay away from those places.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeCourts.
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