Richmond, Texas: 43-year-old Cherry Payton was sentenced on April 29 to 30 years in prison after she was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a young child in the first-degree. According to KPRC, the sentencing guidelines is 25-99 years in prison with no parole eligibility and a requirement to register as a sex offender for life.
The child Payton was convicted of abusing was her own daughter.
In June 2017 during a doctor's appointment, during routine questioning, the then 14-year-old girl disclosed to the doctor that she was sexually active with "her husband" and had been for about the previous year.
Payton was present during this conversation and claimed that the child had been married with her consent.
Police were notified on June 5 by Child Protective Services.
The man was later identified as Steven Carty, 52, was arrested on charges of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sexual assault of a child. In March he was sentenced to 22 years and 20 years respectively, with sentences to run concurrently. According to jail records, he becomes eligible for parole on February 8, 2032.
After his release, he will be required to register as a sex offender for life.
When Child Protective Services interviewed the child and Payton, they identified themselves as Hebrew Israelites. Payton explained that the marriage was a normal part of her religious beliefs.
In Texas, the legal age for marriage is 18 with certain stipulations in place that allow for marriage as young as 16.
During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Payton had sexual abused her own daughter years before the "marriage" under a different set of religious beliefs.
"Every child deserves to feel safe and warm with their mother and this child wasn't," lead prosecutor Charann Thompson said. "I take solace in this jury's verdict, because it says that there's a consequence awaiting mothers who fail to protect as profoundly as Cherry Paton did."
District Attorney Brian Middleton said, "All adults have a duty to protect and nurture children that are under their care. When there is a failure to do so, law enforcement will intervene to protect the child and hold violators accountable. I applaud this child for her strength and resilience as she continues to recover from the crimes committed against her. I pray that she is successful in all of her future endeavors."
The girl has since been adopted.