A former Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper who was charged with felony child molestation may avoid time behind bars under the terms of a plea bargain he entered into earlier this week. The former trooper was scheduled for trial on Tuesday on charges of first-degree child molestation and a misdemeanor count of assault. Monday, the 71-year-old Neosho, Missouri, resident entered guilty pleas to two misdemeanor level offenses to avoid the felony charge under a deal with state attorneys.

The man will serve two years on probation, according to an Associated Press account carried by KOMU News in Columbia. The judge suspended jail sentences in the sentencing order. The man pleaded guilty to child endangerment and received a suspended one-year jail sentence on that charge. He received a 15-day suspended sentence on a misdemeanor assault conviction under the terms of the plea deal.

A person given a suspended sentence may avoid serving the time entirely by successfully completing the terms and conditions of probation. However, an alleged probation violation could result in revocation of the probation, and the judge could execute the jail (or prison) sentence.

The former trooper was accused of molesting a girl. The 11-year-old had told authorities that the man had engaged in what prosecutors claim was unlawful contact with the child on occasions stretching across a period of several years. Among the allegations of unlawful contact, police claim that the man had rubbed the 11-year-old’s thigh on more than one occasion.

The man has been ordered to stay away from any children, with the exception of his own grandchildren while on probation. He will have to undergo counseling as a term of his probation.

Source: KOMU, “Ex-Missouri Trooper Agrees to Plea in Molestation Case,” The Associated Press, Oct. 23, 2013; The Joplin Globe, “Retired trooper assessed probation in molestation case,” Jeff Lehr, Oct. 22, 2013