CROWN POINT — The former owner of a Hobart game shop pleaded guilty Friday to sexual misconduct with three different teenage girls.
David E. Jackson III, 40, of Valparaiso, appeared to be on the verge of tears and nearly whispered his answers during a change of plea hearing before Lake Criminal Court Judge Natalie Bokota.
At one point, Jackson said, "My rights have been ignored."
Bokota stopped the hearing and allowed Jackson time to speak privately with his attorney, Joseph Bauer.
When the hearing resumed, Jackson said he understood his rights and was giving them up to plea guilty to three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
In exchange for his pleas, Lake County prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remaining counts in Jackson's three cases, including rape, child molesting and additional counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
If Bokota accepts his plea agreement, Jackson could avoid prison time. He would be sentenced to three years on each of the three counts, all suspended in favor of probation and to be served concurrently.
He will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Nadia Wardrip said.
Jackson was accused in one case of forcing a 17-year-old girl to have sex with him Dec. 31, 2017, after she attempted to purchase alcohol from him at his Games Inn and Dark Ground Cafe in downtown Hobart.
He also was alleged to have forced a 15-year-old to have sex on several occasions beginning in 2015 at the game shop and a Hobart apartment.
In addition, a 13-year-old girl told police Jackson groped and kissed her several times while her family was visiting the game store beginning in early 2017, court records show.
Because Jackson's plea agreement includes an agreed sentence, he will not have a right to appeal his convictions or sentences to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Instead, he must file a petition for post-conviction relief in Lake Criminal Court, Bokota said.
Bokota repeatedly questioned Jackson about his emotional state during the hearing.
She said if he was emotional because he was guilty, she could accept his pleas. However, if he was emotional because he felt he did not commit the crimes, she could not accept his pleas.
Jackson's cases have been pending since 2018, in part because he chose to appeal a lower court's decision to deny his motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals in December upheld the lower court's decision.
Jackson ultimately entered his pleas, and Bokota said she interpreted his behavior to be an emotional response to his guilt.
The judge set Jackson's sentencing hearing for March 26.
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