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Joe Dendy, the former chair of the Cobb Republican Party, raises his hand before testifying that he understood the charges against him and was pleading guilty of his own will. Though attorneys on both sides were scheduled to argue over motions filed in Dendy's case, a deal was reached that saw the 72-year-old plea guilty to all 13 charges against him, ranging from aggravated child molestation to cruelty to children. Staff-Jon Gargis

MARIETTA — Former Cobb County Republican Party Chairman Joe Dendy pleaded guilty Friday to child molestation charges and was given a life sentence, with 30 years to be served in prison.

Under a deal reached with prosecutors, Dendy, 72, pleaded guilty to multiple sexual offenses against two boys between 2004 and 2011.

GOP leaders: Joe Dendy plea not reflective of our party

The deal came before prosecutors had the chance to call as witnesses several other individuals they alleged had been molested by Dendy at various points between the late 1950s and the spring of 2016 in Cobb County and Laurens, South Carolina. Combined with the two boys named in the indictment, prosecutors alleged Dendy had molested six boys and two girls over a nearly 60-year period.

Dendy’s indictment had alleged that the earliest incident involving two of the boys occurred sometime in late 2004 to late 2006 and saw Dendy take the older boy into a Cobb department store in order to commit a sexual act. Another alleged incident of child molestation involved the same boy at Dendy’s home sometime between December 2007 and December 2009. The boy was around 13 years old at the time, according to the warrant filed regarding the incident.

The same boy was also the focus of another child molestation charge involving a sexual incident that occurred inside a closet at Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs, where Dendy and his wife have been members since 1974, according to Billie Dendy’s testimony at her husband’s bond hearing in June.

The victim, now an adult, testified that he was satisfied with the plea deal offered to Dendy.

“You affected me personally ... it’s affected my girlfriend who has to put up with me having nightmares, thinking about what you’ve done to me and going through the process with that,” said the man, now pursuing a career as a military police officer due to his experiences with Dendy.

“I want to help people, and I picked that because I was sexually abused. Moving forward is important. I’ve gone through police academy, and I’m going to be a police officer because of you, so thank you in that regard,” he added. “I won’t let this get to me. I’m stronger than you.”

The second boy named in the indictment was 4 years old when he was molested in late December 2011, with the older boy named witnessing the incident, according to a warrant in the case. Now 9 years old, the youth did not give a victim impact statement at Friday’s hearing.

Dendy pleaded guilty to all 13 charges against him: four counts of child molestation, three counts of enticing a child for indecent purposes, four counts of cruelty to children in the first degree and one count each of aggravated sexual battery and aggravated child molestation.

MORE POTENTIAL VICTIMS

The only other person to take the stand was a man prosecutors alleged had been victimized as a youth sometime between 1976 and 1982.

“I’m glad we reached a resolution that I think is fair … to where he can’t hurt other people,” said the man, whose testimony prosecutors had planned to use in Dendy’s trial, according to court filings. He had been among those prosecutors had expected to call to testify toward their case until discussions between the two sides led to the plea deal.

“It was a surprise to everyone, I think,” Senior District Attorney Susan Treadaway said of the plea after Friday’s court session.

Though prosecutors on behalf of the state offered Dendy a life sentence in writing last week, it wasn’t until Friday’s hearing that Dendy’s attorney notified the state that his client was interested in a plea deal, she added.

Dendy, who did not appear to show much emotion as the plea was entered and the sentence read, made no statements outside of responding to Superior Court Judge Kimberly Childs’ questions, such as whether he was of sound mind and was choosing to enter the plea of his own will.

Dendy has been in jail since being arrested at his west Cobb home in May 2016. Had a deal not been reached, he could have been given two life sentences plus 250 years in confinement if found guilty of all charges and given the maximum sentences on each.

Billie Dendy was in the courtroom early in the day, but was not present when her husband’s plea was entered and the sentence read.

The former GOP chairman has also been charged in South Carolina with criminal sexual conduct with an 11-year-old girl in the first degree over an alleged June 2015 incident, according to a police report out of Laurens, South Carolina.

Treadaway said Cobb prosecutors have spoken to their counterparts in South Carolina, saying they have agreed not to recommend a harsher sentence than the one agreed upon Friday.

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