Bryan Christopher Bertrand, 22, is charged with child molestation in Holly Springs, stemming from an incident with a 12-year-old boy in 2012 while Bertrand was in town visiting family, said Lt. Tanya Smith, spokeswoman for the Holly Springs Police Department.
Before being jailed without bond at the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center last Monday, Bertrand pleaded guilty on Nov. 7 to lewd or lascivious molestation of a person between 12 and 15 years old in Florida. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation and will be required to register as a sex offender, Hillsborough County, Fla., court records show.
But in Cherokee County, Bertrand plans to plead not guilty, his attorney Jeff Heller said.
Heller said he understands the accusations in Georgia and Florida seem comparable, but the molestation in Holly Springs “never happened.”
“I know they appear to be similar but I think there’s a difference between the two (cases),” Heller said. “Up here, I think once the state takes a closer look at what they say happened, what you’re going to see is them dismissing the charge. He did nothing wrong.”
Bertrand, who was a tow truck driver in Tampa, was arrested by the Tampa Bay Police Department on Aug. 1 and charged in the molestation, which had reportedly happened the day before, according to police records.
An article published in the Tampa Bay Times in reference to that arrest states Bertrand was accused of putting his hand down a 13-year-old boy’s pants. Bertrand reportedly admitted to Tampa police officers that he had touched the victim inappropriately, after the child’s mother, an acquaintance of Bertrand, walked in on the scene in her son’s bedroom, according to the newspaper.
Bertrand has made no such admission to the Holly Springs Police Department, Smith said. But Smith said Bertrand hasn’t been questioned by Holly Springs Police, because he had already returned to Florida when the investigation began.
Smith said the alleged molestation in Holly Springs took place sometime in mid- or late 2012, though she did not release details about who the victim was, other than he was a boy who was 12 years old at the time.
Bertrand was arrested Sept. 24 on the warrant from the Holly Springs Police Department, police said. He had been released from the Hillsborough County, Fla., jail on the day he was arrested in the other molestation Aug. 1, police said.
No court date has been set for Bertrand in Cherokee County, but if he is found guilty in Cherokee County, he could face mandatory jail time because of his prior conviction in Florida, according to Georgia law.
District Attorney Shannon Wallace said the law in Georgia binds the court to sentence defendants to prison in cases where they are convicted of a second sexual offense.
“In this case, if the defendant is convicted of child molestation and there is in fact a prior conviction of child molestation from Florida,” Wallace said, “the defendant would be sentenced to at least 11 years to serve the first 10 years in prison as a mandatory minimum.”