In a stunning reversal, a former ice cream shop owner convicted of sexually abusing two young girls will spend the next two years under house arrest instead of going to prison.
In August 2014, David Higginbotham Sr., 65, was convicted of 12 counts of sexual abuse in a Pennsylvania court and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison. Higginbotham was granted a new trial after he challenged the testimony of Dr. Jennifer Wolford, the doctor who examined the two girls. The defense successfully argued that part of the doctor’s rebuttal should be stricken from her testimony, as she was responding to remarks made to the media and not to the jury, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has reported.
“The trial court does not identify which evidence Dr. Wolford’s testimony was admitted to rebut, and it is obvious to this Court that a defense attorney’s statement to the media does not constitute evidence. Furthermore, there is no evidence of record that the jury was even aware of counsel’s media statement,” the Superior Court’s decision read. “This clear legal error was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion.”
Higginbotham, who once owned an ice cream shop, was accused of abusing the two girls, who were family friends and are sisters, over the course of several years. The victims are currently teenagers, according to The Tribune-Review. Police Chief Robert Amann claimed the 13-year-old victim once “wrote a note sort of itemizing the assaults and turned that over to her parents.”
With his conviction thrown out, the 65-year-old pleaded guilty to six of the original 12 counts: two counts each of unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault and misdemeanor corruption of a minor.
On Monday, Judge Alexander Bicket sentenced Higginbotham to two years of house arrest and ten years of probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender.
“He is a nasty man, he did things to me, things I will never forget for the rest of my life,” one of the victims said, as reported by WXPI. “He had the power, but now it’s my turn. I want you to put him back in jail.”
[Featured Image: Allegheny County Jail]