A retired California businessman has accepted a controversial plea deal that spares him prison time for sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl.
Lyle Burgess, 79, of Stockton pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor on May 23, for which he received 90 days in jail and five years of probation. According to the terms of sentencing, he isn’t required to register as a sex offender and may serve his sentence under house arrest. His home is in an upscale gated community.
“The sentence is absurd,” Kenneth Meleyco, a lawyer for the victim’s family, told HuffPost. “The man pled guilty to statutory rape, which normally involves someone older than a 15-year-old girl. A minor can’t consent, but in this case the district attorney amended the complaint and allowed him to plead guilty to a charge that has no factual basis. He should be in state prison and should have to register as a sex offender so people know who he is.”
If convicted at trial of felony sex with a child under age 10, Burgess could have faced significant prison time. State sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 25 years to life.
“The way it was presented to them was, ‘This is what’s going to happen,’ and they gave the parents no option as to what to do.”
Burgess was arrested on Nov. 23, 2016, and initially charged with four counts of lewd acts upon a child, according to the district attorney’s office. The arrest was made after the child’s mother reported seeing Burgess put his hand down her daughter’s pants.
His attorney, Gregory Davenport, told The Associated Press that his client denies molesting the child and accepted the plea deal because he is in frail health and wants to put the allegations behind him.
“The whole case was based upon some minor touching,” Davenport said.
In a Friday press release, the district attorney’s office said the allegations would have been difficult to prove in court, adding that the child was not sexually penetrated.
“It wasn’t weak,” he said. “The little girl told police what he did. She told the police therapist what he did, and she testified to what he did. The mother also saw one of the [incidents], and when he was confronted with all this, he asked for a lawyer, so we never knew his position on all of this.”
The district attorney’s press release says the plea deal was “agreed upon by all parties, including the parents of the child victim.”
According to Meleyco, the parents were not given a choice.
“The way it was presented to them was, ‘This is what’s going to happen,’ and they gave the parents no option as to what to do,” he said.
The victim’s mother condemned the deal while testifying at the sentencing hearing, saying Burgess was “getting off so easy.”
“I want other kids to be protected by possible future abuse by this man,” she said.
The child’s father said in court, “I don’t have too many prized possessions in this world other than my family. [My daughter] will remember this the rest of her life. She sleeps on the floor outside our room.”
Meleyco is representing the child’s family in a civil suit against Burgess seeking unspecified damages for sexual abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
According to Sacramento’s Fox 40 News, Burgess is the founder of Rare Parts Inc., a Stockton automotive parts manufacturing and distribution company.
“She’ll get some adequate compensation for this,” Meleyco said of the victim, who is now 7 years old.
Burgess’ attorney said he believes the allegations are motivated by greed.
“They are using this instance to try to gain financially,” Davenport told The Record.
Meleyco said Burgess’ status and wealth are what got him off easy.
“He’s white and wealthy,” Meleyco said. “That’s what I think. The district attorney’s office handled it that way, when it’s supposed to be up to the district attorney’s office to ensure justice is done.”