James Daniel Cousart Jr., 39, entered an Alford plea – a plea in which a defendant concedes there is enough evidence for a jury to reach a conviction – Tuesday in Richmond County Superior Court.
If it wasn’t for the persistence of the child abuse experts at the Child Enrichment Center and Assistant District Attorney Kristi Connell, the children would still be Cousart’s victims, prosecutor Hank Syms said Tuesday.
“Even if only half of what the children disclosed is true, they really did live a nightmare for years,” Syms said. He agreed to allow Cousart to enter a plea to four of the 17 sexual assault charges he faced, mostly to spare the children from having to testify, Syms said.
According to the indictment, Cousart raped the children beginning when one girl was 6 and one boy was 5. The abuse of the other two children began when they were around 4 and 8. The abuse allegedly included Cousart raping the children and in one incident, according to the indictment, allowing a man known only as “Daniel” to sexually assault one of the children.
Cousart’s wife, Amy Cousart, is a fugitive. She is accused of four counts of cruelty to children for reportedly knowing about the abuse and failing to protect the children. Although Amy Cousart filed for divorce after their arrests, it was dismissed.
Syms said after court that the mother of two of the children has not come forward. The children are now in foster care.
The children first came to the attention of law enforcement when the youngest child was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. The other three children were also tested and found to be positive, Syms said. All four insisted they hadn’t been abused. But the Child Enrichment Center met several times with each child to build trust. After all the children had been through, it was some time before they could disclose the first time they met someone, Syms said. Until then, they never said a word about the abuse to anyone, he said.
Judge Sheryl Jolly accepted the plea negotiation and imposed the 25-year prison sentence. When released, Cousart will remain on probation the rest of his life.
Cousart, who faced charges of aggravated child molestation and kidnapping with bodily injuries when he was 18, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of child molestation. He was sentenced in 1992 to five years in prison followed by five years on probation. According to the indictment in that case, Cousart attempted to rape a 9-year-old girl.