Sunday, June 21, 2009
David Earls Receives Only 1-year Sentence for Raping 4-year-old
A woman who says she was raped by her father — the man now at the center of a controversy for the rape of a child in Pittsburg County — took her case to a national audience Friday with the hope he gets a longer prison sentence.
Through a satellite hookup in Tulsa on Friday morning, Denise Earls, 43, told CNN how she came to be raped by her father, David Harold Earls, when she was 8.
She was joined during the interview by state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who has expressed outrage at the one-year prison sentence David Earls received last month in McAlester for the rape of a 4-year-old girl.
Ritze has also appeared on national TV in recent days, most notably the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News, to vent his anger at the sentence and also to call for state authorities to investigate the case.
Ritze and state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, have called for proceedings to oust Pittsburg County District Judge Thomas Bartheld, who accepted the plea bargain Earls, 64, received on May 13.
Adding intensity to the outrcy on Earls is that he will serve just three more months in a county jail and won't go to prison.
The one-year plea bargain took into account the time he was booked and held in jail since Sept. 24, 2008.
As a result, Earls is tentatively scheduled to be released Sept. 24, Pittsburg County jail administrator Missi Eldridge said.
Earls pleaded no contest last month to charges of first-degree rape and forcible sodomy.
As part of a plea bargain, he was sentenced to a year of incarceration, and 19 years of a 20-year sentence were suspended.
The plea bargain and the 4-year-old's pretrial court appearance in front of Earls triggered national and international outcries, even threats to District Attorney J.B. Miller, whose assistants agreed to the sentence.
On Friday afternoon, a bomb threat was called in to Bartheld's office, leading sheriff's deputies to evacuate the Pittsburg County Courthouse. No explosive device was found.
Prosecutors and the child's family had feared that the 4-year-old would freeze up during the planned closed-circuit testimony, Miller said. That, along with Earls' age and his terminal cancer, led to the plea bargain before the trial began.
Ritze said Denise Earls, who is not related to the 4-year-old girl, appeared on CNN on Friday with the hope that somehow her father would be punished with a longer prison sentence, "and also to make sure that what happened to her doesn't happen to someone else."
In a recent interview with The Oklahoman, Denise Earls called her father a "monster" who got a year sentence, while "I got a life sentence."
She has established a life with her husband, daughter and grandchildren and long ago separated from her father's family.
She knew nothing of her father's criminal case until her estranged mother called recently.
She said her father's sentence angers her.
"They have computers; they have all kinds of ways to determine that he has family members," she said. "You would have thought they would have tried to contact me to see if anything happened to me."
Denise Earls said the inappropriate touching began while she was living with her mother and grandmother in Blackwell. Her father was divorced from her mother when she was 1, she said, and she seldom heard from him.
In 1974 her father spent one night in the washroom behind the garage where she was living. She said that's where he raped her.
Her father told her that if she told anyone, she would no longer be allowed to live with her grandmother, she said, so she kept quiet.
"I was too afraid," she said. "My grandmother was my rock. My grandmother was my savior. She's the reason I'm a good person today."
Denise Earls said she confronted her father in 1995, after she'd been married many years.
"He said, 'I was drunk. I'm sorry. I don't remember,' " she said. "I said, 'I have vivid memories.' "
Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has already weighed in on the allegations made by Denise Earls.
"My investigators have talked to this newly identified victim," he said.
"We're attempting to determine whether, in all likelihood, the statute of limitations has run on those offenses.
"But it would be additional information that if there were a trial of this person, Earls, that information may be admissible to show the propensity to commit this kind of crime."