Lt. Colonel sentenced in Columbus molestation case

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  An Army Colonel must now register as a sex offender in Georgia, after pleading guilty to an incident with a Columbus teenager.

Forty-four-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Berry pled guilty to two counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes in Muscogee County Superior Court Monday in a best interest plea deal with the state.

Assistant District Attorney Robert Bickerstaff testified that last summer, Berry tried to get a 14-year-old girl to give him oral sex but the she refused.

Bickerstaff says Berry proceeded to send the teen text messages and emails discussing oral sex and how he would leave his garage open for her to come in his home and into his bedroom.

When the victim's mother and father found the messages, prosecutors say they became suspicious and called police.

Berry's attorney, Michael Reynolds, told the judge the only contact the two ever had was a kiss.

In May, Berry was indicted on charges of child molestation and solicitation of sodomy in the case but those charges were dismissed as a result of his plea agreement.

Reynolds asked the court for probation, not jail time, saying the judge should "punish what happened, not what could have happened."

Chief Judge John Allen sentenced him to 12 years in a state penitentiary, two of which he will serve behind bars and the remaining 10 years on probation.

Berry's pastor and friends spoke of his outstanding character in court but Judge Allen told all of the parties involved that Berry "had a significant fall from grace."

The victim's mother says the teenager is in counseling and that the "healing process will take a long time."

Prosecutors say Berry was stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta and living in Columbus but Berry's attorney says he has since relocated and has more than 20 years of military service.

The Lieutenant Colonel was processed in jail Monday but he will report back to authorities in two weeks to begin his prison sentence. As part of his guilty plea, he must register as a sex offender.

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