Man convicted of 1 charge in day care molestation


A former day care worker accused of sexually abusing a 3-year-old is to be sentenced in February in a case that was marred by misplaced evidence and led the state to drop more than half a dozen charges, prosecutors and a defense attorney said yesterday.

James Allen Gregory, 61, a convicted child molester whose last known address was in the 400 block of W. 24th St. in Baltimore, entered an Alford plea - acknowledging that prosecutors had evidence to convict him but not admitting to the crime - Monday in Carroll County Circuit Court on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor.

"He has always indicated that he was not responsible for what happened," Joseph Murtha, Gregory's attorney, said yesterday.

Gregory was charged with one count of second-degree rape, four counts of sexual abuse, two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and one count of third-degree sexual offense, according to court records. The alleged offenses occurred over about a year, from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003, court records show.

Gregory - who is expected to be given a 15-year sentence with all but three years suspended under the terms of the negotiated plea - also must register as a sex offender and will be placed on five years' probation after he is released from the Carroll County Detention Center in Westminster, Murtha said.

Carroll authorities charged Gregory early last year with sexually abusing two 3-year-olds and raping one of them at a now-defunct Westminster day care center, Rainbows and Reasons, where he worked as a part-time computer technician. His Alford plea was to a charge that involved only one of the girls.

State prosecutors said they accepted Gregory's plea because of concerns about whether they could convict him in light of missteps during the investigation.

"Was it a fair and just sentence? Absolutely not," said David P. Daggett, Carroll's deputy state's attorney. "He deserved a much harsher penalty."

The missing evidence included photos taken during a pediatrician's examination of one of the girls. Prosecutors realized in late 2004 that they were missing, and Murtha challenged the admissibility of the doctor's testimony. The photos, recovered two months ago from a storage area at Carroll County General Hospital, raised concerns about the reliability of the state's evidence.

Prosecutors also worried about the ability of the girls, now 6 years old, to testify about events three years ago.

Gregory served two years in Washington state starting in 1990 on a child molestation conviction, according to officials and court files in the criminal case. He was five months into a court-ordered, yearlong supervised community placement when he left that state.

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