Friday, August 14, 2020. Updated Saturday, August 15, 2020 to add details, including agreement for bond reduction for 72 hours.
A trial scheduled for Monday is now cancelled after James D. Burnette, 52, pleaded guilty to a number of felonies while a human trafficking charge was dismissed.
Five days were set aside for the trial, which would have been the first one held in Adair County since courts were closed or modified due to COVID-19 restrictions. This would have also been the first human trafficking trial in the county.
Burnette pleaded guilty to two counts of custodial interference, Class D felonies; possession of a controlled substance, first offense, methamphetamine, a Class D felony; drug paraphernalia; and two traffic violations.
He entered an Alford plea, which is a guilty plea that does not admit guilt but admits that there is enough evidence for a possible conviction, on a charge of unlawful transaction with a minor, 1st degree, controlled substance, also a Class D felony. He also entered an Alford guilty plea to sexual misconduct, a Class A felony, which was reduced from rape, 3rd degree.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Wright said he would recommend a sentence of 15 years. Wright said following a hearing Friday that he believes the outcome is fair given all the circumstances in the case.
Burnette will not be required to register as a sex offender, something that was apparently important to him in the plea agreement. His attorneys, Elizabethtown attorney Eric Bates and Abraham Jones, an attorney from Raleigh, N.C., noted that the charges referenced in the plea agreement recognize statutes that do not require Burnette to register.
Wright agreed to a request to change Burnette’s current bond of $100,000 to a 10-percent cash bond and allow him to be out on bond for 72 hours before sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 15 at 9 a.m. He will be required to wear an ankle monitor, must stay on his property and only have contact with his immediate family.
The temporary release was requested because Burnette’s father is in bad health. Burnette has been incarcerated for 18 months.
Burnette faces multiple charges involving two 17-year-old females who had been reported missing from Casey and Hart counties.
Burnette is accused of providing a place to stay, food and drugs to one 17-year-old female in exchange for sex from Nov. 1, 2018 through Jan. 30, 2019.
He is accused of harboring the 17-year-old in a mobile home on Mt. Tussell Rd. in the Knifley community, just half a mile from where he lived.
According to court records, officers from the Adair County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police went to Burnette’s home on Jan. 10, 2019, in search of a missing teenager from Casey County.
Officers found the missing juvenile but were unaware that a second juvenile on the premises was also listed as a missing person.
On Jan. 30, 2019, Deputy Sheriff Josh Durbin stopped Burnette’s automobile and discovered the second 17-year-old attempting to hide in the floorboard of the vehicle. Officers believed the minor was under the influence and summoned an ambulance. According to court documents, police discovered two grams of methamphetamine, syringes, pipes and empty baggies in the trunk of Burnette’s vehicle. A search warrant was later executed at his residence.
Burnette told officers that he located the juvenile around six hours prior to being stopped and took her home and fed her and was returning her to her mother.
By Sharon Burton