by Heather Tomlinson
A Pulaski County man was sentenced in connection with a rash of groping incidents at local retail stores earlier this year.
Robert A. Hammonds, 38, of Somerset on Thursday appeared before Pulaski Circuit Judge David A. Tapp. Hammonds had entered an Alford plea of guilty in June to one count of first-degree sexual abuse, amended down from initial charges of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of third-degree sexual abuse.
The case was opened on May 30 when two women reported that a man, later identified as Hammonds, had inappropriately touched them in separate incidents while they were shopping at the TJ Maxx clothing store, located in the Grand Central shopping center.
Investigators with the Somerset Police Department stated the man allegedly touched both victims in the buttocks area in an action that appeared he was passing by.
SPD released surveillance footage from TJ Maxx and sought the public’s help in identifying the suspect.
Thousands of tips poured in, but not before more alleged victims came forward.
Four additional victims came forward, two of them young girls under 12 years old, bringing the total of alleged victims to six.
Hammonds was identified relatively quickly, thanks to the flood of tips that came in from the public.
Hammonds in June entered the Alford plea — in which a defendant maintains his innocence but recognizes that enough evidence exists to bring about a conviction in court — as part of the Rocket Docket program.
First-degree sexual abuse is a felony. Tapp in Thursday accepted Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery’s recommendation of one year in prison for the charge. That sentence will run consecutively to sentences connected with cases dating back to 2008 for a total of 18 years.
Hammonds will also be added to the sex offender registry for 20 years.