Although Herman Lee Archie told cops years ago “The devil made me do it” before pleading guilty to molesting children, he still denies abusing girls as young as 3.
This week, Archie could be released from jail – unless a jury in a rarely used civil lawsuit decides that Archie is a threat to society if set free.
And if that jury confines Archie, there is no guarantee he will ever be a free man again.
Archie, 51, of western York County, has three convictions for violent sex crimes against young girls – ages 3 and 10 – over a 25-year span. In 2012, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison. The crimes read in court are horrific: rubbing his hands over a 3-year-old girl’s private parts as she lay sleeping in bed until he was caught in the act by another adult, and another set of incidents involving rubbing a different girl in a tent, in a bed, and on the floor.
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And still more allegations made public in court – arrests but not convictions – of a third girl victim.
But prison terms are often half the court ruling, and Archie’s time is up. Yet prosecutors with the S.C. Attorney General’s Office filed a civil suit earlier this year under the state’s sexually violent predator act alleging that Archie is a threat to re-offend if released without treatment while incarcerated at a state institution.
Use of the law enacted in 1998 is rare and used only for serial rapists and others. But to keep Archie in custody, the state has to prove that he is a threat to society if let loose.
Archie’s lawyer told that jury Monday one of the most important tenets of American justice – that Archie has done his time and fulfilled his debt to society after incidents decades apart, and deserves his freedom.
The state claims prison was not enough for Herman Lee Archie.
Archie said nothing in court Monday and does not have to. He pleaded guilty in 2012 under what is called an Alford plea, where a defendant accepts the consequences of a guilty plea because of a likelihood of conviction but admits no wrongdoing. He may testify later, but he can choose to sit and listen to the battle between experts, arguing whether Archie is likely to commit more crimes if he gets out to walk free.
Archie refused sex offender treatment while in prison, testimony showed Monday. He repeatedly denied the crimes when asked by Dr. Amy Swan, a prosecution expert who has examined more than 230 sexual predators in three states over more than 20 years.
Asked why he refused treatment, Archie plainly said of the convictions: “Because I didn’t do it.”
Yet Swan testified that Archie said after he was caught in the act by another person with his hands between the legs of a tiny child: “I got the devil in me,” which pushed him to molest the girls. He said, “the devil had put these children in the house and he had been fighting it,” Swan testified.
Archie told authorities that “I’m fighting between the flesh and the spirit.”
He told Swan that “The good Lord” will keep him from re-offending, but still denied the crimes the girls accused him of.
Swan told the court that Archie is a predator of a quarter-century span who can’t control himself without treatment in an institution. She described him as a pedophile.
Earlier in the trial, Archie’s lawyer, Anna Good, said that while the details of the crimes are “offensive’ Archie could function outside of an institution.
On Tuesday, a doctor for Archie is expected to counter the prosecution’s claim that Archie is a predator who must remain incarcerated.
Ultimately, the jury will have to decide if a man convicted of molesting two girls – a man who refused sex-offender treatment for crimes he denies – can walk out of jail this week and go home.