HAZARD — Steven Jude stood in the Perry County Circuit Courtroom on the afternoon of Jan. 7 to face sentencing for three counts of sexual abuse in the first-degree against victims, all three of whom were females under the age of 12 when the crimes occurred. Jude entered a guilty plea to the charges.
Two of the victims were present, along with their mother, to witness the sentencing of their abuser. The mother wanted to make a statement to the judge and Steven Jude before a final ruling was handed down.
“I already know what they are going to give him,” she said in a pre-sentencing interview with the Hazard Herald, “I just want to tell him how I feel.”
Steven Jude, who is 23 years old now and was 21 at the time of the crimes, received a sentence of five-years-probation for each of his victims, along with a court order to participate in psychiatric treatment, register as a sex offender, refrain from personal correspondence with anyone under the age of 18, not accept employment which requires him to interact with minors, remain alcohol and drug free, fully inform all future intimate partners of his history and never establish contact of any form with the victims of his sexual abuse. Jude’s computer habits, including social media and website activity, will be closely monitored. He was released from court under home incarceration for the time being, as he conducts all of the requirements necessary to meet the terms of his probation.
The sexual abuse, which Jude openly admitted to committing under oath, happened in 2013. The two girls, who were present with their mother at the sentencing, were visiting the home of a friend when Jude made advances toward them. Jude exposed himself and touched them inappropriately. The friend, who was also less than 12 years old, experienced the same actions from Jude on a repeated basis. The girls came forward with accounts of Jude’s behavior, which led to his arrest in Aug. of 2014. When the abuse unfolded, Steven Jude was staying in the Wabaco community of Hazard, where he lived with the family of his fiance, who is also a sister to one of Jude’s victims.
The Hazard Herald printed an article in the Sept. 17, 2014 edition about Steven Jude’s arrest. The article, which was written by Mindy Miller, states that Jude had already spent 60 days in jail prior to his August, 2014 incarceration for alleged offenses committed against two girls, who were under the age of 12. Each of his crimes were Class C felonies, which could have resulted in as much as 10 years in prison.
During the proceeding on Jan. 7, Steven Jude remained mostly silent, speaking only when the judge asked him to solemnly swear to the truth of his testimony and to give brief answers to questions the judge asked him. Before the case adjourned, the mother of two of the victims was given the opportunity to deliver her statement, which she did, while crying, with her young daughters by her side.
The mother urged Jude to think about the harmful effects his actions had on the lives of his victims and she demanded he seek proper help in changing the destructive direction of his life’s path. Then the woman addressed Judge Alison Wells, at which time she informed the judge that she agreed with the court’s proposed sentence for Steven Jude. However, the woman pleaded for the court to show no mercy if Jude ever stands trial again for a similar crime. With obvious concern, Judge Wells inquired about the well-being of the children. The woman said her daughters have received counseling and she hopes that, in time, they will be okay.
In a post-trial interview with the mother, she spoke of her reasons for accepting Jude’s plea deal for probation, rather than prison time.
“If I had my way, I’d put him under the jail,” she said, “I think they (the attorneys) were mainly focused on keeping the girls off of the stands and trying to do what was best for the girls.”
By pleading guilty, no trial was necessary. Thus, the testimony of the victims, who remain juveniles, would not be needed to help gain a conviction. The mother admits that this entire experience has been emotionally distressing for her and her daughters.
“I just want him and everyone else to understand that what he did to them is not something that just affected them then. My kids are still dealing with this and they always will,” she said, “But they’re strong girls.”
According to the mother, her daughters continue to have nightmares and trust issues. She claims that she is dealing with many of the same issues too, as a result of what has happened to her daughters. Although they are receiving counseling, she worries that they might deal with some of the psychological turmoil for years to come.
Studies by the country’s major anti-child-abuse activist groups confirm that the number of people living in the USA, who have been victims to sexual abuse at some point during their childhood, reaches into the millions. The telephone number to report child abuse to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in Kentucky is 1-877-KYSAFE1. The Kentucky State Police sex offender registry can be accessed online at kspsor.state.ky.us.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 and on Twitter @HazardHerald.