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Former custodian sentenced in child molestation case

Robert Cates

Robert Cates

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Gwinnett judge this week sentenced a Lawrenceville man to serve five years in prison for molesting two female family members over the course of a decade.

Robert Cates, 60, pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation in Gwinnett Superior Court this week. He was working as a night custodian at Parkview High School at the time of his arrest in 2009, after the victims had made an outcry to their father.

Cates' employment with the school ended when he was charged in August 2009, a district spokesperson said Wednesday. He'd worked at the school since 2008 and with the school system since 1987. The arrest was his first in Gwinnett County.

Cates was sentenced by Judge Timothy Hamil to serve 15 years probation upon his release from prison. In exchange for his guilty plea, four additional counts of child molestation were dropped, said Assistant District Attorney Bill Akins.

"One of the victims had, for all practical purposes, disappeared, so we were unable to proceed on those counts in any event," Akins said Wednesday.

Cates molested the girls for nearly a decade, between roughly 1998 and 2007, during sleep-overs at his High Sierra Court home. Police said in 2009 they were first made aware of the abuse that April, when the girls' father showed up at headquarters saying his daughters claimed Cates had molested them.

Cates' attorney, Scott Estes, said his client faced a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted at trial. Cates entered what's known as an Alford plea, meaning he pleaded guilty without admitting to the facts as outlined by the state, but he acknowledged that enough evidence could have been presented for jurors to convict him.

"Mr. Cates has always maintained he didn't do it," Estes said.