OKEECHOBEE — A former corrections officer and youth minister was sentenced to life in prison after he entered a guilty plea to sexually molesting a 7-year-old girl.
Assistant State Attorney Don Richardson said the defendant, Joe Herman Beaman, actually stopped trial proceedings Wednesday and entered the plea.
Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer then found Beaman, 61, guilty on three counts of capital sexual battery and three counts of lewd & lascivious molestation victim under 12.
Beaman was sentenced to life in prison on each count.
“We picked the jury on Monday, came back on Wednesday and I made it through my first two witnesses when he entered the plea — knowing he was going to get life,” explained Mr. Richardson. “I was about to call the victim, and he knew I was about to call the victim, when he told his attorney he wanted to enter a plea.
“In my ten years as a prosecutor, this is the first guy to enter a plea during the trial,” added the prosecutor.
Beaman was represented by defense attorney Stanley Glenn, from the District 19 public defender’s office.
Mr. Richardson went on to explain that just before Beaman entered his open plea to the court, the jury had just heard his taped confession and how the 7-year-old child “turned him on.”
Beaman was arrested locally on Dec. 19, 2014, by Detective Corporal Rosemary Farless of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office. He was also arrested by Detective Sergeant Steve Harris, formerly of the Glades County Sheriff’s Office, because at least one of the incidents occurred in Glades County.
The three counts of capital sexual battery occurred in Okeechobee County.
“He was living in a motor home in the parking lot of the Moose Lodge (in Okeechobee),” said Sgt. Harris in an interview immediately after Beaman’s arrest. “The majority of the time he lives in Okeechobee, but he was staying in Buckhead Ridge when this happened.”
Department of Corrections (DOC) records show Beaman worked at the South Bay Correctional Institution from Aug. 1, 2010, until April 29, 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Moore Haven Correctional Facility from Sept. 21, 2007, until July 31, 2010.
A Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report shows Beaman had been a certified corrections officer in Florida since 2008.
Beaman was also a corrections officer in North Carolina.
An arrest report by Cpl. Farless stated Beaman was a youth minister at his church, but she did not indicate the name of that church.
Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News