A Columbus man accused of relieving himself in sight of a 7-year-old girl waived his preliminary hearing today on charges of child molestation and public indecency.
Columbus Recorder’s Court Judge Michael Cielinski ordered 55-year-old Charles Kenneth Hart held on bonds totalling $26,000, and bound his case over to Muscogee County Superior Court.
Hart pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The girl’s father said that his daughters were playing in the cul-de-sac of Watkins Drive and moved out of the way allowing the suspect, identified in reports as 55-year-old Charles Kenneth Hart, to drive past them around 12:15 p.m. Reports state that he parked at the end of the road in the driveway of a landscaping company, unzipped his pants and urinated in plain view.
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The 7-year-old got her father, who saw the suspect zip up his pants and get inside his vehicle. The father said he tried to confront the suspect, who drove off.
The father copied down the man’s license tag number and called police, he said. Reports state that Officer Joseph Bridges responded to a report of someone in a black Chevrolet Blazer exposing himself. Bridges spotted and stopped the vehicle on Wellborn Drive near Forest Road. The father then came to the scene and identified the suspect.
The suspect told police that he’d been drinking, though he wasn’t charged with DUI, reports state.
Hart is being held under no bond, Muscogee County Jail officials said.
According to state law, someone commits child molestation when he or she “does any immoral or indecent act to or in the presence of or with any child under the age of 16 years with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the person.”
Someone convicted of child molestation faces a sentence of five to 20 years.
Defense attorney Richard Hagler said the child molestation charge might not stick.
“It constitutes bad judgment,” Hagler said. “I think it’s certainly a public indecency. Perhaps a drunk and disorderly.”
Defense attorney Michael Garner questioned whether it’s child molestation if someone is unaware that he’s seen.
“That’s going to make it a close case,” Garner said of police and the father’s reports. “If he’s drunk and relieving himself, he’s not molesting children. I think it would be at least a question of fact for the jury.”