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Durham Judge Defends Probationary Sentence for Admitted Rapist

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DURHAM — A Durham judge who sentenced an admitted rapist to probation said that he will not accept any similar plea bargains where the defendant pleads guilty to one crime but admits to a more severe crime.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson sentenced Ricky Sewell, 20, to five years of supervised probation March 12 after Sewell pleaded guilty to three counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor, a 7-year-old girl.

To appease the victim's family, Sewell was required to admit to sexual intercourse with the child.

The judge said that the situation created an erroneous public perception about the case, and he vowed not to let it happen again.

"They put that in there to please the family," Hudson said. "I couldn't use it to punish [Sewell]. The state couldn't prove him guilty of rape. But they made him say he did it. Then, people hang the judge out to dry for not punishing him for it."

Sewell originally was charged with first-degree rape and two other serious sexual offenses, but Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline said that she made the bargain largely to avoid traumatizing the girl by having her testify in court.

Sewell could have received 20 to 24 months in prison for each of the indecent-liberties charges, and Cline argued for a sentence of at least 20 months. The judge used his discretion to order probation.

"I'm the judge," Hudson said. "I sentenced this person based on what I heard...That's what judges do. You sit, listen and make decisions. You can't please everybody." From staff and wire reports