RICHMOND — A Berea couple accused of selling their two teenage daughters for sex pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge.
Anthony Wayne Hart, 50, and Kathy Hart, 46, each pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree unlawful transaction with a minor. In exchange for those pleas, the commonwealth dismissed the original charges of one count of human trafficking, two counts of first-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, and two counts of use of a minor younger than 16 in a sexual performance.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jennifer Smith recommended that each defendant be sentenced to five years in prison, although each would get credit for time served in jail when they were initially arrested in 2011. The maximum sentence each might have faced had they gone to trial and been convicted was 50 years.
Madison Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue scheduled sentencing for July 10.
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Smith said in court and in an interview afterward that resolving the case this way was in the best interests of the daughters. She said they are in foster homes and "are happy and are doing well."
"The girls have been torn between feeling like victims on the one hand and loving their parents on the other," Smith said in open court.
In the interview, Smith said the girls "do not want to be forced to testify. They want to end this."
The daughters told varying accounts at different times, and Smith indicated that that would have been a problem during a vigorous cross-examination had the cases gone to trial.
For example, the daughters at times had denied that they were sold for sex but at other times had admitted that there had been sexual contact with men. A third defendant, Alex Gomez-Lopez, pleaded guilty in 2012 to first-degree sexual abuse for having sexual contact with one of the girls. An attempted rape charge against him was dismissed.
The original indictment said that Kathy Hart induced the girls to engage in companionship with men. Smith said the men would pay for food and clothes for the girls and sometimes for Kathy Hart.
Kathy Hart allegedly would approach men in public and ask if they wanted to go out on "dates" with her daughters.
In November 2002, the Harts were charged with attempting to sell a 3-month-old daughter for adoption in the parking lot of a Danville Wal-Mart. Anthony Hart later entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to two years in prison.
The charge against Kathy Hart was dismissed after a Boyle Circuit Court judge ruled that she was incompetent to stand trial.