MAGNOLIA, Texas (KTRK) -- A man facing life in prison for sexually assaulting young boys was sentenced to zero time behind bars.
Larry Dean Cole accepted a plea deal just moments before a jury walked in. He agreed to five years of probation and registering as a sex offender.
The plea deal in the case was a surprise to everyone in the courtroom, including those who live in Cole's Magnolia neighborhood. It's a neighborhood now dotted with posters with Cole's name, face, and address.
"I felt a huge sense of relief that he finally admitted that he was guilty and happy to see that finally some justice was brought to these boys," said a mother of one of the victims.
She asked we hide her identity and not reveal her name.
"He's a very dangerous man. He's very sick, he's very demented and he's not going to stop," she said.
"I really wanted this individual to go to jail for many, many years for the pain and suffering that these young men have gone through," added the father of another victim. "You don't expect that a neighbor in a community like that could be as sick as this person is."
As part of his plea for indecency with a child involving sexual contact, Cole will not serve any jail time -- which means he is still living in the same neighborhood with many of his victims' families.
According to prosecutors, the abuse initially occurred 10 years ago. It took time for the boys, now young men, to come forward. There are at least five who've alleged Cole touched them inappropriately. Those accusations are not including a 2008 case in which Cole pleaded no contest to assaulting a 17-year-old.
"He befriended the parents," said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Vince Santini. "He befriended the kids. He was coaching their baseball teams, taking them on hunting trips. When they got older he had parties at his house, gave them alcohol."
Cole's attorney, John T. Floyd, said there was never enough evidence to convict. He told Eyewitness News that Cole made a choice that was best for his family.
"I believed Larry was not guilty throughout this process," he said. "We fought this case for two years. But that's a personal decision that someone has to make."
However, prosecutors think there are more victims, as do the parents of the boys abused.
"He'll mess up again," said one father. "He'll be in the penitentiary and he'll get justice that way."
Cole does have to abide by a long list of conditions to comply with his probation. If he violates them, he faces the original possibility of 60 years in prison.
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Man accused of sexually assaulting boys walks away with no prison time
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