Former Lufkin charter school counselor who molested girl sentenced to 20 years

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A jury sentenced a former Lufkin charter school counselor who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child to 20 years in prison Friday afternoon.

"The jury considered all of the factors and came up with what they felt was an appropriate sentence for this type of case in this particular matter and the factors that they heard in the courtroom," said Al Charanza, the defense attorney.

Prosecuting attorney Ken Dies responded to the decision by stating he was proud of the jury.

"If we could perhaps maybe save one child by convicting one child molester, one pedophile, then saving one child is worth it," Dies said.

The sentencing phase of the trial started Friday morning. The trial is being held in Judge Paul White's 159th Judicial District Court.

John Wesley Carter, 47, of Huntington, had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges. The jury found Carter guilty of the charges Thursday evening.

Carter was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the aggravated sexual assault of a child charge and five years for the indecency with a child charge. He will serve the prison terms concurrently, or at the same time.

In addition, Carter will be required to pay $7,500 in restitution.

Carter was arrested in November 2013 after an investigation into inappropriate conversations he was having with a girl under the age of 10 at Pineywoods Community Academy. The girl's parents had planted a recorder on the child and recorded a conversation between Carter and the girl. They then turned that into Lufkin police.

When police were investigating that allegation, Carter gave them permission to search his house. Police found evidence that Carter had tried to look up child pornography websites.

Carter pleaded guilty to the charge in February 2015, accepting a five-year probation sentence. He was arrested again in April 2016, after a then 13-year-old student made an outcry to a teacher.

Carter's wife and Caleb Bunn, a sex offender caseload probation officer testified during the sentencing phase of the trial.

The prosecution asked the mother of the victim and an investigator in the case to the stand.

Closing arguments were then heard from both the defendant and the prosecution, with both sides reiterating their stances throughout the previous guilt portion of the trial.

The prosecution, which was led by attorney Ken Dies, began by simply stating that the jury had a duty to show the community what happens to people who choose to harm a child.

Al Charanza, the defense's attorney, used his time to persuade the jury that because Carter had spent a majority of his life free of any criminal offense, he should be assigned the lowest possible punishment.

"Clearly there is going to be some questions about the risk to the future," Charanza said. "How do we judge an individual on how they will behave later in life? It's their conduct. He complied with bond conditions. He was on supervision and had no violations. He registered as he was supposed to."

Charanza also urged the jury not to include a fine with their sentencing, stating that the testimony of Carter's wife showed that the family was not rich.

The prosecution responded by stating that the defense barely spoke about the effect this crime had on the victim and the victim's family.

Dies added that Carter had a support system back when he committed the crime against the victim, and it didn't stop him.

"We are the sum total of our past," Dies said. "This crime is a detestable one. Sentence accordingly."

The jury was then sent to deliberate on Carter's punishment.

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