Convicted child molester gets 20

Published 12:04 am Friday, November 11, 2011

The owner of a Florala produce stand convicted in October of molesting two 12-year-old boys in 2007 was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday.

James Richard Downes was convicted of four counts of second-degree sexual abuse and three counts of enticing a child for immoral purposes and was remanded to the Covington County Jail until sentencing. Circuit Judge A. “Lex” Short sentenced Downes to 20 years on each sex abuse count and one year each on the enticing charges. The sentences are to run concurrently.

Downes, who was the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand on U.S. Hwy. 331, molested the boys on multiple occasions between June and July 2007 while they worked for him.

The abuse was discovered when the now 16-year-old victims told their parents.

The boys and their family were in the courtroom when the sentence was handed down.

“I’m shocked and pleased at the same time,” a victim’s mother said. “I can’t believe he got that much prison time. It’s a good day. We feel good that this is over.”

Assistant District Attorney Grace Jeter, who prosecuted the case, said the sentence was a stiff one.

“This sentence is proof of the court’s harsh treatment of child sex abuse cases,” she said.

Downes must now provide a DNA sample and will be required to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison.

Downes’ attorney, Mark Christensen, told the judge his client is seeking probation; however, Short said no ruling can be made until the request is made in writing and a hearing set.

Downes will now be transferred to a state prison facility to serve out his sentence.