Two people arrested on charges relating to sexual exploitation of minors each received 15-year sentences after accepting plea deals.
Ambrose Heavener, 34, and Lindsey Honeycutt, 32, were two of four arrested on sexual exploitation charges in March 2016. The charges stemmed from allegations that two 4-year-olds, one boy and one girl, were forced to have sex with each other and adults.
Heavener and his attorney negotiated a plea on his first-degree sexual exploitation charge in exchange for a 15-year sentence and all other charges being dropped.
His deal was an Alford plea, which Judge Larry Hyman explained Heavener is not admitting guilt, but acknowledging that prosecutors have sufficient evidence that if he went to trial, he would likely be found guilty. The plea carries the same weight as a guilty verdict or plea, Hyman added.
Heavener has been in jail since his arrest, for 3 years and 114 days, and he will get credit for time served against his sentence.
After Heavener’s sentencing was complete, Honeycutt received hers.
She had already pleaded guilty, but Assistant Solicitor Leigh Andrew told the court that her sentencing was delayed because she agreed to cooperate as a witness.
Andrew explained that her cooperation was key in getting a guilty plea from Panteleimon Spirakis, who was sentenced to 20 years last August.
Hyman sentenced her to two 10-year sentences for unlawful conduct to a child and two 15-year sentences for battery of a high and aggravated nature. The sentences will be served concurrently, and she will get credit for two years and 57 days of time served.
The judge acknowledged Honeycutt’s contributions to prosecutors, but added that her actions were “reprehensible” and she shouldn’t serve any less time than Heavener. Both will also be added to the sex offender registry.
The victims’ grandmother was present and pleaded with the judge to accept both plea deals.
Anthony Strickland is the final defendant awaiting trial in this case, but Honeycutt’s attorney James Galmore suggested that Strickland may be innocent.
While explaining the benefits of his client’s cooperation, Galmore said that based on her testimony, it appears Strickland was not involved in these activities and may not be prosecuted.
Andrew, who is also representing the solicitor’s office in its case against Strickland, told The Sun News that no decision has been made to drop charges against Strickland, who is being represented by Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner.