JOPLIN, Mo. —
A Jasper County judge sentenced a Joplin man to 12 years in prison Friday for sexually molesting three young girls.
Jacob R. Pena, 59, had pleaded guilty March 26 in Jasper County Circuit Court to three counts of first-degree child molestation. Judge David Mouton assessed three 12-year terms in prison, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Pena was arrested on the charges in September 2008 after an investigation by the Joplin Police Department. A probable-cause affidavit filed by Detective Justin Barnett states that three girls under the age of 14 alleged in separate interviews by investigators that Pena touched their genitals on numerous occasions over the course of the previous year.
The girls were never required to testify against the defendant in court since Pena waived a preliminary hearing in March 2009 and took the plea bargain this year rather than go to trial.
First-degree child molestation is a Class B felony in Missouri carrying a punishment range of five to 15 years in prison. Pena’s plea bargain with the Jasper County prosecutor’s office limited the sentences he might be assessed to no more than 12 years.
The defendant told the judge at the sentencing hearing that he has sought and been granted the forgiveness of God, family and others, and hoped someday to be forgiven by one of the victims as well.
Public defender Maleia Cheney asked the judge to consider limiting her client’s sentences to no more than seven years each since he has never denied the allegations, has taken responsibility for his actions and has been undergoing counseling.
But the judge refused to do so, sticking instead to the maximum amount of time allowed under the plea agreement.
Jacob Pena, who has been free on bond while awaiting the outcome of his child molestation case, was taken into custody by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department at the close of his sentencing hearing Friday, pending his transfer to the Missouri Department of Corrections.