A Howard County man, who has been convicted in four other child abuse cases, was sentenced yesterday to three years in state prison for sexually abusing the daughter of a Finksburg woman he met through square dancing.
James Winstead Hunter, 32, of Ellicott City pleaded guilty yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court to one count of third-degree sexual offense. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a battery charge against him and agreed to argue for a maximum sentence of four years.
Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. sentenced Hunter to six years in prison, with three years suspended, and five years of supervised probation after his release.
Hunter was arrested at his home by state police Dec. 31 and charged with one count of third-degree sexual offense and one count of battery.
Court records say that the victim's mother found Hunter sexually abusing her elementary-school-aged daughter in her home.
The identity of the girl and her mother are being withheld to protect the child's privacy.
Hunter has been in the Carroll County Detention Center since his bail was revoked June 1. Prior to that, he was free on $10,000 bail pending trial.
Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. revoked the bail after learning that Hunter had traveled to northern Virginia, where he attended a square dancing convention and danced with girls.
The defendant's pretrial release was on the conditions that he would remain in Maryland and stay away from people under 18.
This is the sixth child sexual abuse case in which Hunter has been involved, authorities said. He was convicted in four of the previous cases and acquitted in one.
In court yesterday, Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill said Hunter referred to his criminal record when he was interviewed by the state police.
"I've been trying not to think about it, and I've been trying to ignore my fantasies," Ms. Hill quoted Hunter as telling a state trooper.
Ms. Hill called Hunter a "predatory pedophile" in an earlier court hearing.