A 36-year-old Kingston man pleaded guilty in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday to one count of sexual battery against a child under the age of 16.
Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge Suzanne H. Smith sentenced Dylan Douglas Johnson to five years — the first of which will be served in the Bartow County Jail with the remainder to be served on probation.
As part of a negotiated plea deal, prosecutors dropped one count of child molestation against Johnson.
According to a bill of indictment, Johnson touched the genital area of a child "with the intent to satisfy the sexual desires of himself" on or about Oct. 11, 2014.
Cherokee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Gower Side said the victim was a friend of Johnson's niece.
"He had been drinking that night," she said. "After the girls had gone to sleep, he had wandered into the bedroom ... he had placed his hands down her clothing."
Side said the victim and her friend then ran into a bathroom, locked themselves in and called police.
She said Johnson's sister found the defendant "banging on the bathroom door where the girls were" and asked him to leave the residence.
"The defendant ultimately did give an interview to the police — the story kept morphing over the course of that interview," Side said. "In his version of the events, he did state that the victim was having a bad dream and he went there to console her and he may have touched her shoulder."
Side said there was no physical evidence of sexual abuse.
"It was purely a case of what the victim was reporting against what the defendant was reporting," she said. "Nonetheless, the victim is satisfied with the resolution in this case."
Johnson will be eligible for work detail and work release under the sentence, "as deemed appropriate by the jail."
He will also pay a $1,500 fine and must abide by several special conditions of probation, including clinical substance abuse evaluation and treatment.
Johnson must also register as a sex offender.
"This happened in the blink of an eye," said Kent Buis, Johnson's attorney. "He's accepted his guilt and would like to move on."
Judge Smith granted Buis' request that his client receive "first offender treatment" — meaning if Johnson abides by all terms of the sentence and is discharged, the sexual battery charge will be sealed from his official Georgia Crime Information Center record.
"The downside is if you fail to abide by any of the terms and conditions of your sentence or further violate the law in any respect," Side said, "you can be brought back to court and this court can adjudicate you and find you guilty of the offense at that time."