CHARLESTON -- A judge Friday dismissed a man's claim of innocence and said there was no reason not to believe the evidence that showed he molested three boys.
Jeffrey M. Jones received a sentence of life in prison because that was required, based on Jones' earlier conviction for the same type of offense.
A jury in August found Jones, 56, guilty of charges accusing him of sexually assaulting and otherwise molesting the boys while he lived in Mattoon between October 2014 and the summer of last year. The boys were 11, 13 and 14 years old at the time.
On Friday, Jones gave a lengthy statement, telling Coles County Circuit Judge Brien O'Brien that he deserved a new trial. He claimed to have witnesses who didn't testify during the trial who could support what he said.
"There is so much wrong with this case it's unreal," Jones said. "All I'm asking for is one chance."
O'Brien, who had to admonish Jones at one point for interrupting him, quickly dismissed the claims. He told Jones that Public Defender Anthony Ortega, who represented him, "knows more about the law than you do."
The judge also noted that the trial's jury believed the testimony of the boys who were the alleged victims, adding "as did I."
"What you put those children through is deplorable, it's unforgivable and it's horrific," O'Brien said. "No one of any age should have to go through that."
He also said the trial evidence showed that Jones began molesting one boy and then turned to the others, whom he knew or met through the first victim.
"You chose your victims carefully," O'Brien said. "You sought people who were vulnerable. You picked them carefully and you preyed upon them."
The mother of two of the boys also gave a statement Friday and said Jones "changed my family for the worst." She said both boys are having difficulties at school and are also experiencing other problems.
"The boys show more anger and sadness and I don't know if I can bring their happiness back," she said. She added that she and one of boys wished the death penalty were possible for Jones "so he cannot destroy another life."
The charges of which Jones was convicted, a total of two dozen, included predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. He was also convicted of child sex assault charges in Moultrie County in 2000 and a second conviction for such an offense makes a life term mandatory.
Assistant State's Attorney Tom Bucher mentioned Jones' statements during his argument to O'Brien but said Friday's hearing wasn't the time to address those contentions.
"The reality is this defendant is a serial child molester," he said, after which Jones muttered, "No, I'm not."
Ortega acknowledged that O'Brien's "hands are tied" and the life sentence was required. He noted that Jones "professes his innocence" and plans to appeal.
Jones' address at the time of his arrest was an apartment at 1114 Edgar Ave., Mattoon, but he's been jailed since his arrest in September 2016.