A former petty officer in the Navy was given 15 years in prison Monday for two felony counts of child molestation.
Geoffrey Peter Graham, 43, of the 4000 block of Cedar Rock Road in Thomson, entered an Alford plea in a bench trial before Judge Roger W. Dunaway Jr.
An Alford plea allows a defendant to plead guilty while still maintaining innocence. The plea is entered not as an admission of committing the crime but because the defendant believes the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.
"This is a plea of guilty for all purposes under the law, and it is subject to the same punishment as a guilty plea," Dunaway said.
On the first count, Graham was sentenced to 15 years in prison and five on probation. On the second, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 15 on probation. He will serve the sentences concurrently and be required to register as a sex offender.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Woody Davis said the crimes occurred on or around July 24, 2010. Two days later, the victims' mother contacted McDuffie County sheriff's Investigator Al Reeves.
Reeves began an investigation with assistance from Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Doug Parker and Navy criminal investigators. Graham's attorney, Lucy Bell, cited his cooperation with law enforcement and the fact that he had no prior record.
Graham, however, gave a statement maintaining his innocence.
"He wishes to say none of the evidence against him is true," Davis said. "Mr. Graham has failed to accept full responsibility."