John Daniel Dean, 20, was sentenced to 15 years of probation on one felony count of child molestation. He appeared before Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr. for a bench trial in McDuffie County Superior Court Monday morning.
Dean will also spend 120 to 180 days in a detention center.
Dean's attorney, Lucy Bell, entered an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to plead guilty while maintaining innocence when he or she believes the prosecution has enough evidence to convict.
The charges stemmed from an incident that occurred about two years ago. A 5-year-old child told his mother that Dean had touched him inappropriately, and she reported the incident to the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department.
The investigator turned the case over to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Agents administered a polygraph test on Dean. After failing all relevant portions, he admitted to touching the victim, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Woody Davis in the trial Monday.
Bell said Dean committed the crime out of curiosity, not for sexual gratification.
"Daniel is sorry for his actions," she said. "His judgment was poor."
Instead of a prison sentence, Bell requested a term of intensive probation, noting Dean's cooperation with law enforcement and a history of psychological problems.
In a statement read to the court by a victims' assistance advocate, the victim's mother disagreed.
According to the letter, Dean led the child into a wooded area to play a game. After the incident occurred, he threatened the child with bodily harm should anyone find out what had taken place.
"No punishment is great enough to restore our son's emotional ability and self-esteem," the statement read. "It is debilitating in any current and future interaction with older males in his life."
Dunaway said the case presented many factors to take under consideration, including Dean's extensive history of emotional and psychological issues.
"Mr. Dean needs some period of time to reflect on his actions," he said of his decision to send the defendant to a detention center.
Other conditions of Dean's sentence are that he must continue his regimen of psychiatric treatment and register as a sex offender.