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Last updated: February 16. 2013 8:19PM - 665 Views

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WILKES-BARRE TWP. – Prosecutors withdrew three sexual offense charges against a Lycoming County man to relieve a teenage girl from having to testify at a preliminary hearing on Tuesday.


Instead, James Walter Zerby III, 45, of Linden, is expected to plead guilty in Luzerne County Court to having unlawful contact with the child.


Zerby was arrested by Newport Township police in May after the girl alleged he sexually assaulted her at a residence in Glen Lyon from 2003 through 2006. Zerby is known to the girl's family.


The girl appeared for Zerby's preliminary hearing before District Judge Michael Dotzel but did not have to testify when Assistant District Attorney Jenny Roberts and attorney Thomas Cometa announced they reached a negotiated plea deal.


Roberts and Cometa told Dotzel that charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault and corruption of minors against Zerby were withdrawn.


A single count of unlawful contact with a minor, a second-degree felony that incorporates sexual offenses, was levied on Zerby. Roberts advised Zerby that if he does not plead guilty to the unlawful contact charge, the original offenses will be refiled. Zerby is facing three to 10 years in prison, Roberts said.


The negotiated plea deal erases lifetime registration under the state's Megan's Law, which would have been required if Zerby was convicted or pleaded guilty to the involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charge.


He will have to register his address for 10 years if he pleads guilty to the unlawful contact offense.


Zerby remains jailed at the county prison for lack of $100,000 bail.


A formal arraignment is scheduled on Nov. 2 in county court.


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