TIFTON -- A 25-year-old Tifton man pleaded guilty to child molestation and statuatory rape and was sentenced to serve seven years in prison after he had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl. The girl, pregnant and due to deliver in a few months, testified in court Friday the child is his and she plans to keep it.

Reginald Maurice Swain wiped tears from his eyes with his orange jail shirt and murmured "Jesus" several times as Tift Superior Court Judge J. Harvey Davis pronounced his sentence.

The girl's father testified before sentencing that his daughter had told him about the relationship with Swain. He told the court what punishment he recommended.

"Under the circumstances, me being her father and the emotional scars she will carry and the problems she is having carrying the baby," he said, "I feel he should get the full extent of the law."

Assistant district attorney Kevin Hutto recommended Swain be sentenced to serve a merged 20-year sentence with the first seven years in prison for the child molestation and statutory rape charges. Each charge carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

"I was fully prepared to give the full 10 years in prison," Davis said.

Davis recounted how Bryan had referred to Swain as a young man, but pointed out that he was married when the offense occurred.

The plea was considered "blind" as no plea bargain agreement between the defense and the state had been reached prior to the hearing.

Witnesses in mitigation prior to sentencing included the girl's father and friends, acquaintances and former co-workers of Swain's and the girl's mother.

Witnesses were sequestered during the hearing.

Bryan argued Swain did not know the girl's true age and that the victim was a willing participant in the relationship. Some questions to witnesses centered on the girl's alleged pursuit of the relationship.

In closing arguments, Hutto said "There is simply no excuse for what he did to her."

"He is a predator," Hutto said. "Whether or not she is accepting of his advances makes no difference.

"She's 14 and he's 25. She can't make that determination."

When Bryan asked a former co-worker of Swain's if she knew whether or not the victim was interested in a relationship with Swain, Hutto objected on the basis of hearsay. He was overruled.

"She stated she liked Reginald and she had been trying to talk to him and stuff," the young woman said. "They talked over the phone."

Swain testified that the victim was wearing makeup when they met and "she looked 17." When questioned on whether he believed she was 17, he said, "So-so."

The witness said the victim had asked to use the witness's house for a meeting with Swain. She testified she denied permission.

Swain testified the victim had told him she was 17 after they had sexual intercourse for the second time.

The victim testified that the first sexual meeting with Swain took place at her home and that she invited him over.

"I let him into the bedroom," the girl said. "He is the only one I have slept with."

In addition to serving seven years in prison and the remainder of a 20-year sentence on intensive probation, Swain was ordered to register as a sex offender and undergo sexual offender evaluation and complete any psychological treatment recommended. He was also ordered to submit to DNA blood testing and perform 96 hours of community service. He was ordered not to have any contact with children, including his own, and to have no contact with the victim or come within 100 feet of the premises where she lived.

Swain has 30 days to appeal the sentence through the sentence review panel of the State of Georgia.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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