CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Sissonville man who was convicted by a jury of having sex with his young cousin entered a guilty plea Wednesday after the state Supreme Court sent his case back to the judge.
Eric L. Counts, 25, is serving a 25-100 year sentence at Mt. Olive Correctional Center. That sentence was imposed in June 2011 by Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky, who could have sentenced him to up to 500 years.
Assistant Prosecutor Don Morris said the Supreme Court didn't overturn the case, but had issues with some of the entries in the 11-year-old victim's diary. The court sent the case back to Stucky to determine if Counts should be re-tried.
Instead of going through another trial, Counts decided to plead guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree sexual abuse. He now faces a possible 5-25 year sentence.
The victim gave an emotional testimony at the trial, saying Counts had sex with her multiple times.
Attorneys at the time presented the jury with two scenarios -- that the diary was an account of that sexual activity or that it held the secret fantasies of an adolescent.
Morris strongly disputed the fantasy theory of defense attorney John Sullivan.
"An 11-year-old girl may fantasize about being pretty, about living in a castle, about having fairy wings," Morris told the jury.
He said he didn't believe the writings about sex between the two, however, were anything but the truth.
Counts will come before the court again in January for sentencing.
He was originally handed three five- to 15-year sentences and four 25- to 100-year sentences to be served concurrently. He was not eligible for parole until serving 25 years.
Morris said the guilty plea was the best outcome in the case, because the diary had been key evidence.
"We wouldn't have wanted to go to trial again just with the little girl's testimony," he said.
Counts has vigorously denied that he ever touched the girl.
His plea Wednesday was a Kennedy-Frazier plea. That type of plea is typically entered when a defendant doesn't admit guilt, but concedes a guilty plea is still in his best interests.
Counts and the victim were neighbors on Legg Fork Road. She told the jury that he often spent the night at her mobile home and they slept in bed together behind a locked door.
She testified that she loved her cousin and wanted to marry him, and didn't realize the sexual activity was wrong. The relationship came to light when her mother discovered and read the diary.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at cher...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4832.