Kerns receives 15 years

Woman enters Alford plea to 2010 sex crimes

STEUBENVILLE — Charlotte A. Kerns, 47, entered an Alford plea to sex crimes involving children and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kerns, who had addresses in Steubenville and Shadyside, was indicted by the Jefferson County grand jury on four counts each of rape, gross sexual imposition and sexual battery. She was sentenced Thursday by Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Michelle Miller

The crimes occurred in 2010 and involved boys who were 9 and 12 years old at the time, according to the indictment.

Kerns entered the Alford plea to one count of gross sexual abuse and two counts of sexual battery. Assistant Prosecutor Jeffrey Bruzzese asked Miller to dismiss the remaining counts.

An Alford plea is when a defendant maintains their innocence but admits the evidence would be enough for a jury conviction. It is a guilty plea.

Defense attorney Aaron Miller said the Alford plea was in the best interest of Kerns.

After Kerns was taken into custody by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Miller said Kerns wrote a confession indicating illegal conduct with the victims. Miller said the defense would have a hard time overcoming the confession, in addition to other evidence. He said Kerns faced a much longer prison sentence — life in prison — if she would have been convicted of all counts, especially the rape charges.

Bruzzese said he had the opportunity to speak with the victims through preparation for the case, saying he can see the effects they still suffer from the abuse they endured.

“While they have a good support system, they are still dealing with the fallout of the abuse,” he said.

Bruzzese said the 15-year sentence is justice for the victims.

Kerns offered no statement when offered the opportunity by Judge Miller prior to sentencing.

The judge said she reviewed the medical and psychological reports entered in the case and recalls the fear, despair and rage of the victims.

“(The sentence) will alleviate the fear of harm to the boys again, but I’m not sure if the rage will ever end,” Miller said.

Miller ruled that Kerns is a Tier III sex offender, requiring her to report her address to the county sheriff every 90 days for life.