Man pleads to sexual assault that left child with STD

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 27, 2014

A Canton man faces nearly 30 years behind bars after pleading guilty to sexual assaults that left a 3-year-old boy with a sexually transmitted disease.

James Daniel Sawyer, 33, was arrested in October of last year after Sgt. Shawn Gaddis with the Canton Police Department received a report from the Haywood County Department of Social Services involving the little boy.

About a month prior, the mother had noticed bumps on his bottom, said Assistant District Attorney Rachael Groffsky in court Tuesday. After going to the doctor, it was determined the child had anal warts.

The boy and his then 7-year-old sister were examined and interviewed at Mission Hospital. Though the girl did not have any physical illness, she did speak of Sawyer's sexual behavior.

"The little girl disclosed he had touched her privates and had told her not to tell anybody," Groffsky said.

Sawyer had been married to the children's mother, however he was not their father. When detectives interviewed Sawyer, he admitted to inappropriately touching, fondling and rubbing himself on both children.

"He was fairly remorseful during his confession and he complied with law enforcement once he was brought in," Groffsky said.

Authorities believe the crimes occurred on and off between January 2012 and September 2013, based on statements by the mother, children and Sawyer himself.

The grandmother of the children cried as she read a victim impact statement aloud to the court Tuesday, directing her comments specifically to Sawyer. He looked at her as she read, but with little expression on his face.

"Daniel, I would like to know why you chose my two grandchildren to do what you did. You do not realize the pain and suffering we have went through with our two small children," she said.

The now 4-year-old boy has undergone three surgeries to remove the warts.

"We would have to give him a bath to help with the pain. It just hurt us so much we would just cry ourselves," she said.

He still wakes up shaking and crying from nightmares at night, she said.

"If people only knew what a sick mind you have on your shoulders and what you have done to two small children, they would see what pain we have went through," she said.

"When you go to prison, I hope you get what you need to be put through that you put my two grandchildren through."

Sawyer's lawyer, Michael Fox, said during meetings with his client, "the bulk of our conversation has been his remorse."

He pointed out that Sawyer has never even had so much as a traffic ticket, comes from a well-respected family, is a lifelong local resident and has a stable employment history.

Sawyer's father and pastor were present in the courtroom as well. His father teared up as he stood to speak.

"I'm heartbroken over all this," he said. "I love those kids and I love my son unconditionally."

Though he had no excuses for his son's actions, Sawyer's father said he fears the thought of dying before ever seeing his son out of jail.

"I'd love it if he could be out before I go, but I know he deserves punishment for what he has done, but I would ask, for my sake, that the court would have mercy in his case," he said.

Through his lawyer, Sawyer offered to any type of financial restitution to help the victims, but the family declined the offer. He pleaded guilty to two counts felony first degree sex offense, one charge for each child.

Pursuant to the plea, the state dismissed the other charges against Sawyer, including rape of a child, five counts indecent liberties with a child and two other counts sexual offense with a child.

Judge William Coward did not recognize any mitigating factors and sentenced him to 240 months to 348 months in prison and fined him $10,000 to go to the state. He also granted the defense's request to allow Sawyer work release so he can help support his 5-year-old daughter, despite adamant disagreement from prosecutors.

Upon his release, Sawyer will be a registered sex offender and required to wear satellite based monitoring for life.

Groffsky explained the reason the state decided to offer a plea to the defendant was to avoid bringing the two children to retell their stories during trial. She also pointed out that the boy is too young to testify.

"We felt that for the best interest of the children, this was the best course to take," she said.

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