A Lehighton man entered a guilty plea in Carbon County court on Monday afternoon to all counts pending against him in the sexual assault of a young girl.
Jason Thomas Ahner, 43, entered his plea after he and his court-appointed defense counsel, Attorney Kent K. Watkins, of Saint Clair, had picked a jury in the morning to hear the matter. The trial was scheduled to begin today at 9 a.m.
Instead Ahner entered an open plea to two counts each of rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, all felonies, and indecent assault, misdemeanors.
Ahner admitted having performed a sexual act on a then six-year-old girl.
This is not the first guilty plea in the case for Ahner. On Jan. 9, 2011, Ahner pleaded to one count each of rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with all the remaining charges dropped.
Then in July he moved to withdraw his plea. Following a hearing on July 19 President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II allowed him to withdraw the plea.
In a plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Ahner was going to be sentenced to a state prison term of six to 12 years. And the Commonwealth agreed not to invoke the mandatory sentence in the case of 10 to 20 years.
With an open plea to the counts, Nanovic, who accepted the plea, can sentence Ahner to any term under the state guidelines.
State police at Lehighton charged that the incident involving the girl occurred at a trailer campground. Troopers said more than one incident occurred and happened over a period of September to Oct. 11, 2009.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Greek, who is prosecuting the case, said that during one of the sexual assaults a resident of the campground observed it through a window of Ahner's trailer. The witness then notified troopers. Greek said when the victim entered the trailer Ahner said to her, "Want to do a secret?" He then took the girl to a bedroom in the trailer and committed the act.
Troopers said that Ahner was interviewed and admitted the act.
Nanovic deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation report. He also ordered that Ahner must under a sexual offenders evaluation by the state board of sexual offenders assessment to determine if he is a violent sexual predator because the charges fall under Megan's Law.
Ahner is currently free on bail.