Friday, April 22, 2011

Bellevue man pleads guilty to sexual abuse

Faces up to 12 years in prison


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Leo Robert Schofield Sr.

A 69-year-old Bellevue man pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing a child.

Leo Robert Schofield Sr. pleaded guilty—but did not admit to—the felony crime of sexual abuse of a child under 16, which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

The Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is recommending to 5th District Judge Robert J. Elgee that Schofield serve up to 12 years in prison. Terms of a plea agreement reached this week require that Schofield spend four years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Court records state that Schofield sexually abused the child—whom court records identify as a family member—sometime between 2006 and 2009. Schofield has remained incarcerated in the Blaine County jail since his arrest on Nov. 3. His bond is set at $150,000.

He was originally indicted by a Blaine County grand jury with lewd conduct with a child under 16, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. In accord with the plea agreement, that charge was amended to a lesser felony offense of sexual abuse of a child under 16.

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The conviction requires that Schofield register in Idaho as a sex offender.

Schofield's guilty plea came during a 5th District Court hearing Tuesday in Hailey. In what is referred to as an "Alford plea," Schofield pleaded guilty but did not admit to committing the crime. Under the Alford court doctrine, a defendant is allowed to maintain innocence while acknowledging that there is likely sufficient evidence for a conviction.

According to minutes from the court hearing, Schofield said he pleaded guilty because "he doesn't want to see his family go through a trial."

A jury trial was scheduled to begin in the case on May 17.

Documents filed by the Prosecuting Attorney's Office state that evidence would have been presented at trial showing that Schofield has a prior conviction in Rhode Island in 1987 for second-degree child molestation.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for June 13. Schofield is represented by the Roark Law Firm of Hailey under the firm's public defender contract with Blaine County.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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