A man charged with child molestation again after being removed from the sex offender registry three years ago is scheduled for a bond hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10.
David Warren Lee, 76, of Whitehill Road in Sylvania, remains in the Screven County Jail on child molestation charges that stems from a July 4 arrest. Lee is again charged with molestation of a child under age 10, said Screven County Sheriff's Investigator Brett Dickerson.
Lee has a history of child molestation, yet he was removed from the sex offender registry in 2013 due to his poor health and after being deemed unlikely to repeat the crime of which he was convicted 10 years before, according to court documents.
He could be indicted for the July 4 incident in October, when the Screven County grand jury meets, said Screven County Clerk of Courts Janis Reddick.
Lee was indicted Oct. 7, 2002, for a Jan. 17, 2002, child molestation case in which court documents filed by prosecutors stated he "unlawfully perform(ed) an immoral and indecent act, to wit; fondled the sex organ of ... a (male) child under 16 years of age, with intent to arouse and satisfy the sexual desires of said accused."
Lee pled not guilty, but later, in May 2003, he entered an Alford plea, which is an admission of guilt acknowledging there is sufficient evidence to convict.
After prosecutors - Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Richard Mallard and Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew - filed documentation in court stating that they intended to use information and call witnesses from previous child molestation incidents involving Lee, he entered the plea as part of an agreement and received 10 years of probation.
Muldrew and Mallard filed the notice March 1, 2003, of their intent to present evidence of similar incidents, including "child molestation of (victim's name withheld), a daughter of defendant when she was between ages 7 and 14. ... (The) acts occurred at their home," according to court documents proceed by the Screven County clerk of courts.
Other cases they planned to bring up in prosecution of Lee's 2002 child molestation charge included reported molestation incidents regarding another of his daughters "when she lived with her father in Screven, until she turned 14 ... (and) of a (third) daughter when she was 6," as well as "solicitation of sex to his teenage granddaughter in 2000 at a trailer park he owned" and alleged molestation of two other female juveniles under 14, according to court records.
After learning of the prosecution's plan, Lee signed the negotiated plea on May 23, 2003, to accept 10 years of probation, 159 to 210 days in a detention center and a $1,000 fine, as well as the stipulation that he must register as a sex offender.
Appeal, health issues
Almost four years after his sentencing, Lee began to seek a reduction in his punishment, citing health issues.
In March 2007, his attorney, Martha Kirkland (now Hall), with law firm Hall & Kirkland, filed for a sentence modification due to Lee's health, seeking to end mandated weekly rehabilitation counseling in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, with Stop, Inc., to which he had to pay $160 each month. Superior Court Judge John M. Turner ruled in favor of the modification, mandating that Lee maintain counseling locally, according to court documents.
Before entering the Alford plea in 2003, Lee was ruled competent to stand trial, but mental health examiners filed reports suggesting that Lee tried to use his health and alleged mental issues to avoid prison.
Documents included a letter from Ogeechee Behavioral Health Services stating that Lee "expressed distress during attendance of required sex offender classes" and had "dementia and a decline in cognitive abilities," as well as depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome and anxiety.
Documents state that Lee told evaluators he saw green men, frogs and spiders on the walls, that his daughter was trying to frame him and that the examiner was the "only person who could help him go to a hospital instead of prison."
One examiner reported that Lee "made overt attempts to appear significantly impaired and in need of hospitalization" and "appeared to be grossly exaggerating or embellishing any problems ... in an effort to avoid the legal consequences of his current charge."
Years after his sentencing, one of Lee's daughters and her son, each identified in court documents as victims, petitioned to be able to visit Lee despite his sex offender status and the conditions that he avoid his victims and stay away from juveniles. Superior Court Judge William T. Woodrum allowed the petition in September 2010.
When Lee filed the petition to be removed from the sex offender registry on Oct. 4, 2012, the court documents were not signed by Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Barclay Black, who said he was asked on short notice to appear at a hearing. He said he vocally protested the petition, but the judge ruled against his recommendation.
Janis Reddick said she does not have a copy of a transcript of the hearing, and one is not included in files.
Black said he was "covering court" for assistant district attorneys Keith McIntyre and Ben Edwards when asked to attend the hearing. When attorney Grady Reddick asked him to sign the petition, he refused because he had insufficient knowledge of the case, he said. When pushed, he again refused.
"I stated several times I was against" removing Lee from the sex offender registry, he said.
Still, Woodrum approved the removal.
The Sexual Offender Registration Review Board classified Lee as "low risk" on March 3, 2013, after he appealed to the board to be removed from the registry.
The court documents state that the review board found Lee to be a low risk because "the defendant is 72 years old, in poor health, suffering from vertigo, diabetes, depression, blood pressure problems, cholesterol problems, and uses a breathing machine." The document states Lee "drives very little," is dependent on his spouse and is disabled.
Georgia law allows for such appeals if all legal and punitive matters are resolved, according to the court documents.
"This court finds by a preponderance of evidence that the petitioner does not pose a substantial risk of committing any future dangerous sexual offense," the order states.
Lee was released from the sex offender registry on June 27, 2013. He was arrested on new child molestation charges three years and eight days later.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.