Plea agreement accepted in human trafficking case

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Curtsinger pleads guilty to reduced charge

By Linda Ireland

A local court case that drew statewide attention is drawing to a close.
James Merritt Curtsinger, 64, the Hodgenville man who was charged with promotion of human trafficking, pleaded guilty to lesser charges Aug. 1 in LaRue Circuit Court. His trial-by-jury was scheduled for Aug. 8.
In December, Kentucky State Trooper Bruce Reeves said it is the first human trafficking case opened by state police working from the Elizabethtown post.
Curtsinger was charged also in 2010 with first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape and third-degree sodomy. He was accused of having relations with a 15-year-old girl, according to Kentucky State Police. In return for sexual favors, he allegedly paid expenses for Hodgenville resident Rhonda J. Brown, the guardian of the teen.
Curtsinger pleaded guilty to an amended charge of second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor with a recommended sentence of five years; and to two counts of third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor with a recommended sentence of 12 months, with all time to run consecutively, according to court records.
All other counts were dismissed.
If found guilty on all counts, he could have been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney is recommending probation and final sentencing is set for Sept. 19. Curtsinger, who has been in jail since his arrest, is furloughed until that time.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Whitney Meredith explained the plea agreement:
“The charges that James Curtsinger pled guilty to were the crimes that the Commonwealth believed could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The disposition reached was based on the evidence that would have been presented at trial from both the Commonwealth and the defense. Although we are disappointed by the outcome of this case, we believe the resolution was fair to all parties involved.”
According to a bond reduction motion written by Curtsinger’s attorney, Dwight Preston, Curtsinger lost his home and truck and his health has deteriorated while he has been jailed. The bond reduction motion was denied.
Preston called the allegations “simply unbelievable” in the motion, saying the alleged victim had changed her story several times.
Brown, 54, was charged with complicity and promotion of human trafficking, victim under 18.
She was evaluated at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, a maximum security hospital inside Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, to see if she is competent to stand trial. Her bond remains at $200,000.
Her case will be reviewed Aug. 15.
She could face more than 20 years in prison if convicted as charged.  
Curtsinger and Brown claimed in a 1983 signed statement they made during divorce proceedings that they married in May 1976 in LaRue County and had a child together. However, the marriage certificate was located in Green County with a date of May 1977.
A second man, Charles Ray Stockton, 51, of Richmond, faces charges related to the case. He was indicted on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and is accused of engaging in a self-gratifying sexual act while communicating with a juvenile over an electronic communication device. Court records indicate the juvenile is the same one involved in the Curtsinger-Brown cases.
The alleged incident occurred in 2008.
Electronic communication devices may include the Internet or telephone, according to the indictment.
Kentucky State Police investigated.
Stockton is being held in Madison County Detention Center. His trial is set for Nov. 8.