July 2, 2010 in City

Plea deal settles baby sitter sex case

Alleged victim’s account includes incorrect dates
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Hughes
(Full-size photo)

After making national news last summer, a baby sitter sex scandal in North Idaho was plea-bargained Thursday after the alleged victim gave the accused a perfect alibi: He said the sex acts occurred on dates when the baby sitter was living out of state.

Summer Kelli Ashle Hughes, 29, also known as Summer Nelson, will be on supervised probation for two years after entering an Alford plea to four lesser counts of misdemeanor injury to a child.

Kootenai County prosecutors were prepared to take her to trial on felony lewd conduct charges before her teenage accuser, who was 14 at the time of the crimes, testified at a preliminary hearing in May.

Investigators say his inconsistency was simply a slip-up by a young victim; Hughes’ lawyer says the boy changed his story several times. Police learned of the allegations from Hughes’ ex-husband’s estranged wife, who Hughes accused of using the case in a custody battle.

Hughes denied improper contact with the boy before entering the Alford plea, which means she does not admit guilt but acknowledges she could be found guilty if she went to trial.

“I am tired of going to court,” Hughes said. “I want to put this behind me.”

Along with two years probation, Hughes was credited for 14 days served in jail and was ordered to pay a $500 fine. She isn’t required to register as a sex offender, and if she complies with her probation, the charges will be dismissed.

Hughes was arrested last July after a monthlong investigation by Post Falls police into her contact with the boy in the summer of 2007.

The boy’s mother was a friend of Hughes, who was hired to baby-sit the boy and his two young siblings at their Post Falls home.

The boy told police he and Hughes had sex four times, and family members said Hughes spoke of being in love with the boy, according to a police report prepared by Sgt. Dave Beck.

“I believe him and I believe it happened,” Beck said in an interview. “But it’s not always what you know but what you can prove.”

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said the boy’s inconsistent statements made an acquittal too risky if they proceeded to trial.

The first proposed plea deal would have given Hughes unsupervised probation, but Kootenai County 1st District Judge John Mitchell wouldn’t allow it, Deputy Prosecutor Jim Reierson said in court Thursday.

Beck said they hadn’t planned to seek a substantial penalty against Hughes had she been convicted of felonies. He called the misdemeanor convictions “the best resolution to the situation.”

But Hughes’ public defender, Jed Whitaker, said in court that Hughes only accepted the offer “because the stakes were too high going the other way.”

He said Hughes “was somewhat victimized in this case herself” and “has just walked through a land mine this past year.”

“Summer has lost virtually everything that’s near or dear to her,” Whitaker said.

Hughes, who had no previous criminal record, was living under her married name of Nelson when the case broke, but the marriage ended after her arrest. She’d had the same job for 10 years but was fired after she was arrested at work, she said in court.

She described herself as “a law-abiding citizen” and said she hopes to attend college.

She declined comment after court.


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