MANATEE -- A 47-year-old man Thursday was sentenced to 35 years in prison for trading cocaine for sex with an underage girl.
“To say these crimes were serious would be an understatement,” Manatee County Judge Charles E. Roberts told Donald James, who stood before him emotionless using a cane due to a deteriorated hip. “I find it very troubling and very disturbing. Looking at your past, you have decided to live a life of crime.”
Moments before delivering the sentence, Roberts had asked James if he had a statement.
“I’m sorry,” James said.
Never miss a local story.
A jury in January found James guilty of the crime.
Defense attorney Hannah Bugg asked Roberts for a 25-year sentence for her client, arguing that even though James scored borderline to average in IQ tests, his verbal comprehension was low.
Bugg also argued that the minor in the case “knew what she was doing” when she got involved with James.
“This was a sexual crime that was not violent and not forced,” Bugg added.
But Roberts appeared swayed by Assistant State Attorney Brian Iten’s final statement, in which he told the judge that James’ prior arrest record extends from 1986 to 2008. He has been convicted of 12 felonies, including robbery, battery and drug charges.
It had taken the jury three hours of deliberations to find James guilty of three of four counts of lewd and lascivious battery, principal to lewd and lascivious battery and child abuse. The jury found him not guilty of procuring a minor for prostitution.
James was arrested on Sept. 28, 2011, after being identified by the victim.