Franklin teen pleads guilty to sexual battery on bus

Published 2:24 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2014

EASTVILLE—An 18-year-old Franklin resident was in the Northampton County Circuit Court on Wednesday and pleaded guilty to two of the nine charges against her in connection with an August 2013 sexual battery incident, which took place on a school bus in Northampton County following a sports-related trip.

Aerial Darden was sentenced to 12 months in jail to run concurrent with both charges. Six of those months were suspended. Each charge was connected to one of the two juvenile victims involved in the bus incident. Darden pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery, a class 1 misdemeanor. One of those sexual battery charges had been reduced from an aggravated sexual battery felony.

Darden’s Attorney Justin Bush said the guilty plea was an Alford plea in which she did not admit culpability, but that she plead guilty simply because they thought it was in her best interest.

Having the charges reduced meant she would not be a convicted felon, nor would she have to register as a sex offender. Bush said they could not pass up the reduced charges when balancing against the potential alternative.

Northampton Commonwealth Attorney Bruce Jones said that considering all of the circumstances, the Commonwealth’s point of view was that the result was appropriate.

Other than to say that, Jones said he wanted to limit what he said about the case to what he said in the courtroom. Courtroom documents on the trial could not be obtained before deadline.

Bush said Darden was happy to have this behind her.

“It’s a very serious accusation,” he said. “Having this behind her with the great outcome in court is a relief.”

Darden has already graduated from Franklin High School, Bush said, and after she serves her time she will seek to enroll in one of the colleges that she has been accepted to. She will not have to face any probation.

The other charges that Darden had faced were ordered Nolle Prosequi, or more simply not prosecuted. She had faced charges in connection to the August incident of two counts object sexual penetration; 3 year plus older 13-14 year carnal knowledge; aggravated sexual battery; two counts mob: simple assault or battery; and object sexual penetration by mob.

Darden was 17 at the time of the Aug. 26 incident, but she was tried as an adult. There were five other females allegedly involved who were tried in juvenile court.

She will serve her six months in the Eastern Shore Regional Jail.