A man who was charged with the rape of a 6-year-old child last year was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison Thursday after entering an Alford plea of guilty to first-degree felony rape in Highland County Common Pleas Court.
James Kuhbander, 33, Hillsboro, appeared before Highland County Common Pleas Judge Rocky Coss, represented by defense attorney J.D. Wagoner.
“The crime you committed, next to murder and manslaughter, is one of the worst,” Coss said during the hearing, adding that the victim must live with the trauma for a lifetime. “This is a horrible offense.”
Coss acknowledged that many members of the public call for execution or other severe punishments for rape convictions, but the law does not allow for that.
Coss said in his experience as a former prosecutor and current judge that trials can sometimes be even more traumatic for the victims than the rape itself, since they have to testify about the details of the event in-depth and in public.
Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins said when it comes to protecting the victim, Kuhbander’s plea eliminates the need for the victim to testify in court.
As previously reported by The Times-Gazette, Kuhbander was indicted by a Highland County Grand Jury last November on one count of first-degree felony rape and one count of gross sexual imposition, a third-degree felony. The indictment alleges Kuhbander engaged in sexual conduct with the 6-year-old beginning in September of 2015 and continuing through November of the same year.
Collins said the gross sexual imposition count was dropped as part of a plea agreement reached Wednesday.
According to court documents, Kuhbander submitted an Alford plea in the case – a type of plea that does not admit the criminal act and asserts innocence, but admits that the evidence would likely persuade a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Court documents say Kuhbander was originally set to go to trial Jan. 3, but the trial was rescheduled for Feb. 13 after a continuance motion was filed. Collins told The Times-Gazette the trial was continued again after Kuhbander’s defense filed for a competency evaluation. Kuhbander was found competent, Collins said, and the case was then set for a jury trial March 16 before Thursday’s plea agreement was settled.
Kuhbander will be eligible for parole in 15 years, Collins said, although the prosecutor’s office and the victim’s family can choose to argue against his release at that time.
According to court documents, Kuhbander is now designated as a Tier-III sex offender and child victim offender.
In other court news, two other people received sentences in common pleas court on Wednesday:
• Brandy Cobb, 35, Milford, was sentenced to three years of community control sanctions after pleading guilty to fourth-degree felony possession of heroin. Coss said in court that one count of possession of cocaine, a fifth-degree felony, was dropped as part of a plea agreement.
• Mallie Bowman, 31, Portsmouth, was sentenced to three years of community control sanctions and ordered to complete a residential drug treatment program after pleading guilty to one count of third-degree felony burglary.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.