A Grace Chapel-area man could spend more than 24 years in prison for sexually abusing two teenage boys and exposing them to the virus that causes AIDS.
Russell Allen Young, 28, formerly of Stirewalt Drive befriended the brothers at a now-defunct gaming store in Granite Falls in 2016 and invited them to his mobile home, Assistant District Attorney Nancy Lee said.
The boys visited Young between May and July 20, 2016, staying overnight twice and at times having sex with Young, Lee said. According to a court affidavit, when the 15-year-old was interviewed, he said that Young used a gun to "force anal sex upon him," and that Young forced him to consume marijuana.
At some point, one of the boy's girlfriends was present at the home, and she heard noises that she thought sounded sexual coming from a bed where Young and another boy were.
Young gave the boys cellphones so he could communicate with them, Lee said. Their mother saw an incriminating text message on one of the phones and reported it to law enforcement.
When Young's phone was seized, investigators found a photo of Young and the boys lying on a bed, shirtless.
Young has human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, according to court records. The boys tested negative for the virus.
Young pleaded guilty using what is called an Alford plea, which means that although he was convicted of the crimes alleged, he maintains his innocence. He was convicted of two counts of each committing a statutory sex offense with a child and indecent liberties with a child, and four counts of a public health violation.
He said in a brief interview after the court hearing that he "didn't do it," but he declined to comment further.
One of the boys told Judge F. Donald Bridges that the situation has been difficult for his whole family.
"What he did was wrong, and he knows it," he said.
The other boy agreed.
"I've lost just about every one of my friends because of it," he said.
Young's lawyer, Bruce Cannon, said Young will be dealing with the consequences of the conviction for the rest of his life.
"He's ruined several lives, including his," he said.
Bridges sentenced Young to 16 to 24 years in prison. He also ordered that Young never have any contact with the boys again.
Bridges found that Young "was a stranger to these young victims" and engaged in conversation with them, enticing them to his home and taking advantage of them "emotionally and sexually." He said that the boys and their family have lived in constant fear since then, "every day and every night."
Cannon said in a separate hearing held earlier in the day on Monday that Young has had serious health problems over the past six months. Young's case was originally scheduled to go to trial, and Cannon wanted to reschedule it because Young's health is deteriorating.
Bridges told Cannon he was reluctant to reschedule the case because he was concerned that if Young's health continued to decline, he might never stand trial.
Several hours after that hearing, Young pleaded guilty as part of a plea arrangement.
Lee said in an interview that the boys' family wanted the case to be finished so that they could move on.
"We wanted to be able to try the defendant for his crimes, and if the court granted the continuance, his health may be so deteriorated that we may not have an opportunity to try him," she said. "And the family wanted to address the disposition of this case and put it behind them."