Man mulls plan to plead guilty in child sex abuse case

Eric Crader, who faces 1,278 counts related to a child sex abuse case involving two children, is weighing his options to plead guilty.

Crader, 33, of Pleasant Gap, faces 213 counts each of rape of a child, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, indecent assault of a child, sexual assault and indecent assault of a person younger than 13 years old — all felonies.

In a separate case, he is charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana for having the illegal substance in his possession when he was arrested on the sex crimes charges.

At a pretrial conference Tuesday, Crader’s attorney, public defender Richard Settgast, asked Judge Pamela A. Ruest to schedule a guilty plea before Judge Bradley P. Lunsford for July 24, when he might accept a plea agreement offered by the District Attorney’s Office.

“He has to think about whether he wants to do that or plead openly,” Settgast said. “He needs to mull it over and figure out what he wants to do.”

Crader has been in Centre County Correctional Facility since February. Some of the alleged incidents date back to 2011 and occurred on an almost daily basis. The charges were filed after an extensive investigation by Spring Township police and Centre County Children and Youth Services. The investigation began after one of the victims “did not want to be hurt anymore” and went to a school guidance counselor, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

Court records show 1,248 of the counts referencing offenses against one of the victims. The remaining 30 counts address the other child.

The pretrial conference was still held, in case Crader opts not to plead next week. A two-day trial was scheduled, with prosecutors planning eight to 10 witnesses, including one expert. Settgast said he had no plans for factual witnesses to rebut the evidence but might produce two character witnesses.

“I think you should think about it, Mr. Crader. Think carefully,” Ruest said.

Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.