Commonwealth Journal

July 1, 2013

Groping suspect enters Alford plea

Hammonds charged with inappropriately touching victims

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

A Pulaski County man accused of groping women in local retail stores has entered an Alford plea in the case. In an Alford Plea, the criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge.
Robert A. Hammonds, 38, of Somerset appeared before Pulaski Circuit Judge David A. Tapp Thursday and entered an Alford plea to one count of first-degree sexual abuse. 
Hammonds was arrested on June 8 and initially charged on a Pulaski District Court warrant on 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 shop-ping 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. 
“We released the surveillance video hoping the public could help us in this investigation and they gave us over a dozen tips that identified the man as (Hammonds),” said Lt. Shannon Smith, with SPD. “The public helped solve this case.”
Hammonds on Thursday entered the Alford plea as part of the Rocket Docket program. 
First-degree sexual abuse is a felony, and Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Eddy F. Montgomery said he would recommend a one-year prison sentence to be followed by five years of conditional discharge. 
Hammonds would also be added to the sex offender registry for 20 years. 
Tapp set final sentencing for Aug. 19, 2013.