Local News

June 28, 2012

Taylorsville mayor gets prison in ‘traveler’ case

CHATSWORTH — Dressed in a dark suit and tie with thinning hair and frameless glasses, Cary Wayne Rhodes remained silent as officials conferred and witnesses testified on his behalf during a sentencing hearing in Murray County Superior Court on Wednesday.

When it came time for Rhodes to speak — the mayor of tiny Taylorsville in Bartow County who was accused of traveling to Chatsworth in an attempt to have sex with an underage girl — he gave short answers to Judge William Boyett’s questions.

“Yes, I do,” replied Rhodes, 57, when Boyett asked if he understood the charges District Attorney Bert Poston outlined to the court.

“Yes, it did ... I take responsibility,” Rhodes responded when Boyett asked him if it happened that way, and he also answered yes when Boyett inquired if he was aware the maximum sentence was 20 years.

Boyett sentenced Rhodes to two years in prison and 10 years on probation on one count of computer and electronic child exploitation. He must also pay a $2,000 fine plus court costs and surcharges, perform 240 hours of community service and abide by sex offender restrictions. But a general condition that Rhodes not be around any children under the age of 18 was eased when Boyett made an exception for supervised contact with his biological grandchildren, nieces and nephews — with at least one other adult present.

Rhodes was charged in late October by the Murray County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the FBI with attempted child molestation and violation of the Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Act. He pleaded guilty to the exploitation charge in May, and Boyett ordered a pre-sentence investigation.

On Wednesday, Boyett consulted with Poston and Rhodes’ attorney, Donald Evans Jr. of Cartersville, three separate times before the actual proceedings began. Rhodes stood at the lectern with his hands clasping a portfolio notebook behind his back, and later sat at the defense table when the hearing became lengthy.

Poston told the court Rhodes responded to a Craigslist posting on the Internet “of a sexual nature,” when in fact he was interacting with an undercover law enforcement officer. Evidence showed the correspondence resulted in Rhodes traveling to Chatsworth in an attempt to meet with a minor for sex, Poston said, where he was arrested in a parking lot by FBI agents and officers of the FBI’s Northwest Georgia Safe Child Task Force. Taylorsville is partially in Polk County, just a few miles north of Rockmart and near Lake Allatoona.

Rhodes had three people testify on his behalf before sentencing.

Attorney Lester Tate, a past president of the Georgia Bar Association, said he has known Rhodes for the 20 years he’s practiced law in Cartersville. He told Boyett that Rhodes’ daughter is an attorney with his firm.

“He has an outstanding reputation ... I’ve never heard anyone in Cartersville say anything bad about him ... people in Cartersville were shocked,” he said of Rhodes’ arrest.

As Boyett listened intently, psychiatrist William Moon said Rhodes “doesn’t meet the category of a sexual predator.”

Tension in the courtroom built prior to sentencing, and Rhodes’ brother Ron spoke last.

“He’s a father — a parent — a business owner and a leader in the community,” Ron Rhodes said. “This is not who he is and is so out of character for him ... he is not a threat to society.”

Ron Rhodes said any time in prison would make it “unlikely his business can continue without his oversight.” Cary Rhodes is a self-employed engineer, according to court records. He is listed as the chief financial officer and secretary of Taylorsville Baptist Church, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.

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