By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A former Canton, Mo., police officer who pleaded guilty to a sex crime last year was sentenced Tuesday to 36 months probation and given a 360-day sentence in the Adams County Jail.
Jamie T. Bell, 25, avoided prison time after pleading guilty in August to aggravated criminal sexual abuse. As part of the plea agreement, a sentencing cap of five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections was put in place. Another condition was that if the Adams County Probation Department recommended probation, then the state's attorney's office would go along with it.
Bell's sentencing hearing was delayed three times after he failed to get a sex offender evaluation done. Bell claimed he called Midwest Clinical Counseling regularly, but could not get in contact with Dr. Keir Goatley, the supervisor. However, Goatley told parole officers that he had never heard from Bell.
Bell finally got that completed in late January. Judge William Mays said he would have sent Bell to prison had he sentenced him earlier.
"You lied to this court, Mr. Bell, and (to) your parole officer," Mays said.
Bell worked for the Canton Police Department as an officer from Feb. 10, 2010, through Sept. 20, 2011.
According to the statement of facts First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha gave at Bell's plea hearing in August, Bell invited three juvenile females to camp with him at a location near Marblehead on May 29, 2011. He admitted to having sex with a 16-year-old victim. Two other people, Farha said, saw Bell in bed with the victim.
The Lewis County Sheriff's Department launched an investigation after the victim reported the incident in September 2011, and the Adams County Sheriff's Department conducted its own investigation. Bell was arrested on Feb. 22, 2012.
During Tuesday's hearing, Farha said the state's attorney's office reluctantly went along with the Probation Department's recommendation. He called what Bell did "a black eye on law enforcement."
"There desperately needs to be consequences in this case," Farha said. "We would like to see the maximum jail time allowed in this case and to have him serve a large time of that."
Bell's attorney, Public Defender Todd Nelson, said that the sex was consensual. "There was no physical harm," Nelson said.
The victim did not appear for the sentencing.
Bell apologized to the court.
"I was extremely embarrassed by my actions," Bell said. "That's why it took so long for me to get done what you asked me to get done."
Bell said he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
"I should have not have drank and invited people to that place at that time," he said.
Although Bell avoided prison, he will have to spend nearly three months in jail. Mays gave Bell credit for one day previously served. He will have to spend the next 89 days in the Adams County Jail. He will be released to go to work and attend counseling sessions. Bell lives and works in Moberly, Mo.
Mays gave Bell a 360-day sentence in the Adams County Jail "based on the hoops you had everyone jump through." The remainder of his jail sentence will be stayed. Bell faces fines and fees of $3,042.
Bell will have to register as a sex offender.