Corrections Officer found guilty of sex crimes against two young girls

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - It took an Oneida County jury slightly more than an hour to find a local correction officer guilty of five of the six sex crimes against him.

Donald Hughes, 50, of Floyd, sexually abused the two young victims, ages nine and 11 at the time. The girls, now 10 and 12, testified against the defendant, whom they knew as "Poppy".

Prosecutors say the young child victims found strength in each other.

"He clearly favored one over the other and maybe thought that one wouldn't tell, but obviously her older cousin helped her, helped her through it and helped her tell and I think, as I said in my summation she really was her champion," says Dawn Cater Lupi.

During a videotaped interview with police which jurors saw on Wednesday, Hughes confessed to some of the crimes, occasionally breaking down and crying. During a recorded jailhouse phone call with his mother, Hughes said he messed up and it was serious and that his life was over. He told his mother he'd hoped he wouldn't have to do state time.

On the witness stand on Thursday, however, Hughes said that he's diabetic, was sick and hungry the during the police interview and simply told them what he felt they wanted to hear in order to get it over with. Hughes also denied all of the crimes with which he was charged.

During deliberations, jurors asked to hear back the testimony of one of the young girls regarding two of the charges against Hughes. They began deliberating at 2:10 Thursday afternoon. By 3:45, they rendered their verdict: guilty of attempted criminal sex act, three counts of sexual abuse and course of sexual conduct against a child. They found Hughes not guilty of one count of sexual abuse. The prosecutor says the family support the young child victims are getting is helping them through.

"Because of the strength of their family and the Child Advocacy Center offers counseling, I know one of the girls is having counseling there. That makes a big difference and again the support of a family is just something that is immeasurable," says Catera Lupi.

Donald Hughes faces between 15 and up to 43 years in prison when he's sentenced on February 23.

The length of the sentence depends on whether the judge sentences him consecutively or concurrently. The prosecution will advocate for consecutive sentences. Oneida County Court Judge Barry Donalty revoked Hughes' bail, meaning Hughes will be in the Oneida County Jail until his sentencing.

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