A Hays man charged with rape and other sexual acts with four teenage girls entered a plea agreement that could put him in prison for just over 20 years.
Andrew Bayle Claude, 20, pleaded no contest Thursday in Ellis County District Court to two charges and entered an Alford plea to an amended charge.
Claude pleaded no contest to aggravated indecent liberties with a child and aggravated sexual battery. He entered the Alford plea to a charge amended to rape. The remaining charges are dismissed.
The original charges against Claude included three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy of a child under 14 and two counts of rape of a child under 14. Conviction on any of those charges would have garnered an automatic life sentence.
Claude was set to go to trial Feb. 25 on the charges stemming from incidents in November and December 2017 and March 2018 in which he had sex with teenage girls.
Two of the girls were 13 at the time of the incidents, below the age of consent in Kansas. The other victims were 15 and 16. Claude was 19 at the time.
Ellis County Attorney Tom Drees told District Judge Blake Bittel that count number five, rape of a child under 14, was amended rape with the age of the victim changed from 13 to 14 to allow for the Alford plea.
In an Alford plea, the defendant pleads guilty to a less severe charge the prosecutor cannot prove while acknowledging the original charge could lead to conviction at trial.
Sentencing will be scheduled for March. Claude’s attorney, Cheryl Stewart, said Claude will present two people to speak on his behalf. Time will also be allowed for the victims or their family members to speak.
The recommended sentencing in the plea bargain is 155 months for the rape charge, 55 months for the aggravated indecent liberties with a child and 31 months for the aggravated sexual battery, to run consecutively for a total of 241 months.
Claude will also be subject to lifetime post-release supervision and lifetime sexual offender registration.