77-year-old Liberty man sentenced to life in prison for rape of young child

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Judge Rice sentenced James Pierce to life with the possibility of parole after 10 years served

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Liberty man who pleaded guilty to rape was sentenced on Thursday, two days after he was supposed to appear in court.

Wearing jail orange, James Pierce, Jr., 77, appeared in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for his sentencing.

The hearing was supposed to take place on Tuesday, but Pierce never showed.

Judge Ronald Rice: “Why was the defendant not here?”
Attorney J. Gerald Ingram: “He was hospitalized, your honor.”
Judge Rice: “Why was he hospitalized?”
Ingram: “I believe he attempted to take his own life.”

Pierce apologized for not being there.

He was initially arrested in connection to the case in April. Six months later, he pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and one count of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

Pierce addressed the court before learning his fate.

“I’ve been thinking about this for several months and one of the things I want to do is improve myself and help other people in that process. If it means incarceration, I believe it’s God’s will,” he said.

“Mr. Pierce, this court has heard a lot of disturbing cases sitting up here as a judge, but I can tell you, yours is one of the worst I’ve seen,” Judge Rice said.

Judge Rice sentenced Pierce to life with the possibility of parole after 10 years served — a sentence that was agreed upon by prosecutors and Pierce’s attorneys.

“The victim in this case was five years old at the time and didn’t turn six until months after the crime. So in order to prevent her from having to testify in open court, we worked out this plea deal,” said Asst. Prosecutor Diane Barber.

Pierce won’t be eligible for a parole hearing until he’s 87 years old.

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