Rhea County man gets 16-year prison sentence in aggravated sexual battery plea

Donald Houston Sr.
photo Donald Houston Sr.

A Rhea County man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a girl.

Donald Houston Sr., 69, pleaded guilty on Oct. 4 in Rhea County Circuit Court and was sentenced to eight years on each count, to be served consecutively, officials said.

The counts were reduced from the original charges of rape of a child, 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney David Shinn said Thursday.

In the plea arrangement, Houston, the now-adult victim and her family agreed to the sentence, 100 percent of which is expected to be served, Shinn said.

The case was heard by the Rhea County grand jury in October 2017 after the then-teenage victim came forward, Rhea County Sheriff's Office detective Rocky Potter said after the arrest last year. The grand jury returned indictments charging Houston with multiple counts of rape of a child.

The investigation started after the victim told a counselor that someone had sexually assaulted her several times when she was under the age of 12 while she was visiting his home, Potter said in early October 2017.

The victim was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Center in Bradley County, the detective said.

"I interviewed Mr. Houston and he gave me a statement that was pretty consistent with what she had alleged," Potter said.

Under state sentencing guidelines for a violent offender, Houston could become eligible for parole after serving 85 percent, or 13.6 years, of the 16-year sentence, Shinn said. Houston would be almost 83.

"If he ever gets out, he'll go on the sexual offender registry and he'll also be on community supervision for life," Shinn said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at [email protected] or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.