November 5, 2018 10:18:39 AM
A Starkville man avoided a potential life sentence for sexual battery Friday by pleading guilty in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court to two counts of possession of a weapon by a felon.
Instead, James Bardwell, 35, was sentenced to 18 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections for possessing a weapon on two occasions -- once in June 2017 and another in May of this year.
Bardwell was also facing a charge of sexual battery that was retired as part of the plea. According to his indictment, Bardwell was accused of having sex with a child younger than 14 years old in September 2017.
Because the sexual battery charge was retired, Bardwell will not have to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.
He was previously convicted of possession of stolen property in November 2012 and aggravated assault in May 2007.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Amos, who prosecuted the case, said Bardwell will serve two nine-year sentences consecutively. Bardwell was also sentenced as a habitual offender, which means he's not eligible for parole and his sentence cannot be shortened.
"We're glad to see this brought to a conclusion," Amos said. "This is a habitual offender. The public will be safe from him for the period of his sentence, and hopefully, he'll reform and rehabilitate. We absolutely wanted to make sure that he served an extremely significant period of time."
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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