Preacher wants to withdraw sodomy plea

Date: 2007-07-25

Preacher wants to withdraw sodomy plea

Posted by David Holden July 25, 2007 10:24 PM

Jerry Wayne Love is asking Circuit Judge Karen Hall to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea to three charges of first-degree sodomy involving three of his adopted sons.

Based on that guilty plea, Hall sentenced Love on July 9 to 15 years on each charge to be served one after the other. But she accepted the prosecutors' recommendation and ordered Love to spend five years on probation and undergo treatment in a sex-offender program. He also must register as a sex offender.

Several national talk shows, including Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes," have featured the case because Love, an unordained preacher, will not serve a day in jail.

Love, 51, of 3202 Overhill St. appeared in court today with his new attorney, Barry Abston, to ask Hall to set aside the sentence. Love and his wife appeared to be dejected.

Abston said in court papers that Love's plea was not voluntary because he lacked full knowledge of the nature of the charges and consequences of the plea.

"A withdrawal of the defendant's plea is necessary to correct a manifest injustice," the motion said.


The hearing on the motion was postponed because Assistant District Attorney Allison Palmer was unavailable for medical reasons. Hall said she will reschedule the hearing.

Love pleaded guilty to charges of sodomizing three young boys whom he and his wife adopted in the 1990s. In exchange, the prosecution dropped 10 counts of sodomy and three counts of sexual abuse against Love.

If convicted by a jury, Love could have been sentenced to up to life in prison on nine of the felony charges.

The boys now are 13, 14 and 16. Palmer told Hall on July 9 that Love had abused the boys multiple times over several years. Three of the four boys whom the Loves adopted have been removed from the home, Palmer told the court.

Fred Sharp, an investigator with the Huntsville Police Department, said he was contacted by school officials in 2003 after one of the boys told a counselor that Love had molested him. Two younger boys came forward last year, Sharp said.

Prosecutors offered the plea agreement to spare the boys from having to testify against Love, Palmer said July 9. Young males are reluctant to report that they are victims of sexual molestation because of the stigma and trauma, she said.

"They are juveniles, and to have them face the man who molested them for years would have traumatized them again," Palmer said.

In the 1990s, Love and his wife were named adoptive parents of the year by the Madison County Department of Human Resources.

Steven K. Aldridge and Alan Davis, Love's former attorneys, said July 9 that they believed that their client made the right decision by accepting the plea agreement.

"After looking at the evidence the prosecution was going to bring against him, he thought accepting the plea would be in his best interest," Aldridge said.

A motion to withdraw a guilty plea based on claims such as Love's is rare, said veteran Huntsville defense lawyer Bruce Gardner.

"Those motions are not typically granted because the judge would have been pretty thorough in going over all his rights and would have told him what the possible punishments were," he said.

Neither Aldridge nor Davis returned calls today.

Abston declined to comment.

Hall does not have to set aside Love's plea and sentence, Gardner said, and if she does set aside his plea, he will end up in court again on the original charges.

"His deal," Gardner said, "can't get any better."


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