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50-year-old man pleads guilty to raping disabled person

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JACKSONVILLE, North Carolina — A 50-year-old man pleaded guilty in court today to four counts of second degree forcible rape and four counts of other sex charges against a mentally disabled person.

Benjamin O'Hara was originally charged with 16 counts of second degree forcible rape and 32 counts of various other sex charges, but the State consolidated the dates of offense prior to trial due to the victim's limited capacity to articulate the number of times each act occurred, officials said.

The victim was 20 at the time she disclosed to one of her teachers about the abuse she endured from 2012 to 2015.

A jury heard a full day of evidence from the State on Monday, Feb. 5. This included testimony from a school psychologist, the victim, child forensic interviewer, school teacher and school social worker. After testimony, the defendant changed his not guilty plea to guilty for each charge the jury would have been asked to deliberate.

O'Hara received three consecutive sentences of a minimum of 73 months and a maximum of 148 months, resulting in an overall sentence of 219-444 months of active time in the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction. If released, he will be required to register as a sexual offender and be subject to satellite-based monitoring for the remainder of his life.

"These cases are very challenging to investigate, prepare, and prosecute. I appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in investigating these offenses and for the courage of the victim in coming forward and testifying," District Attorney Ernie Lee said of the case.

The State of North Carolina was represented by Assistant District Attorney Kaelyn Avery and the defendant was represented by Attorney Stuart Popkin of Jacksonville. Judge Imelda Pate of Lenoir County presided.

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