A 58-year-old Santa Rosa man who molested his step-grand-daughter was released from custody Thursday after serving about a year in jail.
Prosecutors sought a 12-year prison sentence for Thomas Anthony Happ, who was accused of molesting the girl when she was three or four years old and again when she was 10-years-old. They had, however, agreed to a plea bargain that allowed for the possibility of probation.
Citing Happ's poor health and the victim's request for him to avoid prison, Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite set him free. He will serve five years' probation and register as a sex-offender for the rest of his life.
Happ was arrested last January and charged with seven counts of child molestation. Prosecutors alleged he molested the girl three to four times a week after his wife moved out of the house when the girl was 10. One of the counts carried a maximum 25-to-life sentence.
But Happ reached an agreement with prosecutors in May in which he pleaded no contest to just one count with the possibility of serving up to a dozen years in prison.
At his sentencing, the victim, now 14, and her grandmother asked for probation for Happ, who suffers from liver disease. Thistlethwaite also cited Happ's lack of a criminal record in granting the request.
Prosecutors argued for prison, which was also the recommendation of Probation Department officials and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Contact Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.