Child molester pleads guilty

by Sheila Gardner

Nevada Appeal News Service

Convicted child molester James Hope faces additional life sentences after he pleaded guilty to similar charges in Douglas County and Carson City.

Hope, 43, pleaded guilty Monday before District Judge Michael Gibbons to one count of lewdness with a child under 14. Last week, he pleaded guilty to two counts of lewdness with a child under 14 in Carson City in a separate case.

He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years and a $10,000 fine in each jurisdiction.

Hope, a former painter and Carson City police cadet, is serving a life sentence in Washington for a similar offense committed in 2006 after he fled Nevada.

He was returned to Douglas County Jail in July where he has been held without bail.

Hope did not admit any wrongdoing on Monday, but entered an Alford plea. That means he doesn't admit the allegation, but believes there is enough evidence against him for a conviction.

In return for the guilty plea, the district attorney will not file additional charges or add a sentencing enhancement that could mean life in prison without parole.

Gibbons set sentencing for March 31, two weeks after Hope is sentenced in Carson City.

He is not eligible for probation and the judge can decide whether the sentences will be served consecutively or concurrently.

Under questioning by Gibbons, Hope admitted he knew the victim, who was 10 at the time of the Sept. 19, 2004, molestation.

"The court is free to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences," Gibbons said. "You could end up with life sentences in Carson City and Douglas County consecutive to each other. Do you realize that?"

Hope paused for a moment before answering "yes."

"Is Mr. Hope denying he touched this child?" Gibbons asked.

Hope's lawyer, Matthew Ence, said his client was not admitting the allegation.

"I'm pretty much taking the state's offer without admitting the elements," Hope said.

When asked if he knew the girl, Hope said, "a little bit."

Prosecutor Kris Brown said evidence would show that Hope was the boyfriend of the victim's mother who was asleep when the molestation took place.

She said after Hope touched the victim and made sexually suggestive comments, the girl ran to wake her mother. Brown said the mother yelled at Hope and he left the house.

She reported the incident to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.

Before deputies could arrest Hope, he went to Mexico, then Washington state, where he committed a similar felony for which he is serving a life sentence.

When asked by Gibbons if he wished to dispute any of Brown's allegations, Hope said, "I'll remain silent."

He is set for sentencing in Carson City on March 17, accused of molesting two sisters in 2001.

Under terms of the Douglas County plea agreement, Hope will be under lifetime supervision if he is released or paroled. He must register as a sex offender and any community where he lives would be notified.

He must pay restitution to the victim if ordered.

He was accused of five felony counts in Carson City and pleaded guilty to two counts of lewdness with a child under 14.

In Washington, he comes up for parole in 2011, but must complete a two-year treatment program for sex offenders and pass a psycho-sexual evaluation that he is at low risk to offend before he is considered for release, according to court reports.

Hope originally pleaded not guilty to the Nevada charges and was set for trial this week in Carson City and Feb. 19 in Douglas County.

With the guilty pleas, those dates were vacated.

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