MIAMI COUNTY — Maintaining his innocence, a Piqua man entered an Alford plea to an amended charge in a sexual assault case involving a minor on Tuesday.
Benjamin Burchett, 43, of Piqua, entered the Alford plea of guilty and was found guilty by the court of one count of third-degree felony sexual assault filed by a bill of information. The alleged assault involved minors under the age of 10 in 2013. The victim was known to Burchett.
In previous court proceedings, Burchett was indicted by a grand jury on three counts of first-degree felony rape on June 28, 2018. Burchett will be sentenced on March 25. Burchett remains out on bond with conditions to have no contact with the victim.
The joint plea agreement was five years in prison with the state to dismiss the indicted first-degree felony rape charges. Burchett will also be labeled a Tier III sex offender for the rest of his life.
Prior to the hearing, Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Stacy Wall said she was the city of Piqua’s prosecutor at the time the case was being investigated, but stated she had no involvement or conflict of interest in the case. Miami County Assistant Prosecutor Janna Parker and Burchett’s defense attorney, Andrew Pratt, agreed with Judge Wall’s statement, noting the detective in the case had no communication with Wall during the investigation.
Piqua Police Department Detective Miles Gearing testified to the facts of the case before Judge Wall accepted Burchett’s Alford plea of guilt. Burchett maintained his innocence, but he said he agreed with Judge Wall’s statement that he feared the consequences of a trial and the penalty of original charges.
An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court in which a defendant doesn’t admit to the criminal act, yet fears the consequences of the original charges.
The Piqua Police Department began investigating Burchett in late February 2018 after a juvenile reported seeing some inappropriate behavior to a school counselor. The counselor then reported it to the Miami County Children’s Services, who contacted the Piqua Police Department.
“(The juvenile) witnessed a family member in the household touching another juvenile,” Deputy Chief Jason Preston of the Piqua Police Department said.
Investigators met with the victim, who was 8 years old, and found that she had been allegedly raped three times approximately three to four years ago, according to the Piqua Police Department. The alleged rapes took place when the victim was 5 years old and younger.