Four men accused of raping two teenage girls will receive no jail time as a result of their plea deal, which dropped the charges of sexual assault to the lesser assault and battery.
The charges stem from a 2015 incident in which the men allegedly sexually assaulted the two teen girls in a Myrtle Beach hotel room.
Edward House, Bryce Charleson, Cody Haux and Jamel Quick were originally charged with sexual assault, but were offered plea deals. All four of them are from Laurinburg.
Under those deals, each defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery and were sentenced under the youthful offenders act or YOA.
They were sentenced to five years probation and are not allowed to have contact with the victims.
The judge told the men they were being granted mercy:
"Mercy is when you don't get the punishment you deserve," Judge George McFaddin said.
He called the YOA sentence a second chance.
"Your conduct on that day was reprehensible and disgusting. Indeed, depraved," he said.
In an apparent effort to help them relate to their victims, the judge asked if they had sisters and had the men imagine if a similar assault happened to either their sister or mother.
A victim's advocate read letters on behalf of each of the young women. One read, in part, "I didn't touch my parents for a long time after coming home. I didn't let anyone hug me. I jumped at the slightest touch they had given me and it was difficult because all my life, the safest places were always my parents and that was gone."
The statements illustrated difficult emotional issues following April 9, 2015. Each victim described anxiety and fear after the experience.
"I let my hopes of going back to school disappear because of my anxiety and I couldn't last through the day. I fell behind and couldn't catch up. I missed out on pep rally's, football games, basketball games, getting a class ring my junior year, prom and graduation," it continued.
Because the circumstances of the crime required four separate trials, the prosecution said a plea deal would spare the two girls the difficulty of reliving the trauma four times, which they did not want to do.
"You have to strike a delicate balance and it's a struggle everyday to say, okay this is harsh enough to address what happened to the victim, but it's reasonable enough or it gives the defendent something to make them want to plea," Walters explained.
One of the men reportedly exited the courtroom holding hands with a woman, laughing and smiling.