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Why doesn’t a Miami-Dade man accused of child sex abuse have to register as a sex offender?

A man accused of sexually assaulting a girl for nearly a decade will not have to register as a sex offender after reaching a plea deal with Miami-Dade prosecutors.

On Tuesday, nearly five years after his arrest, 90-year-old Albert Bassett of North Miami pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated child molestation before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Alberto Milian. In 2019, Bassett was charged with four counts of sexual battery on a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct after Keisha Etienne, now 36, told Miami-Dade police she had been sexually assaulted by Bassett, her aunt’s boyfriend , starting at age 9 and lasting almost a decade.

READ MORE: Plea deal could keep Miami-Dade man accused of child sex crimes off the registry. Victim disturbed

Under the agreement, negotiated by Bassett’s defense team and approved by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, Bassett will be ordered to complete 10 years of probation, will not be allowed to be supervised with minors and will be required to stay close to the victim.

Had he pleaded guilty to the original charges, Bassett would have been placed on the sex offender registry, which is mandatory in Florida for people convicted of crimes including sex crimes, human trafficking and unlawful sexual activity with minors.

Defendant Albert Bassett takes an oath during his plea hearing before Judge Alberto Milian at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.Defendant Albert Bassett takes an oath during his plea hearing before Judge Alberto Milian at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Defendant Albert Bassett takes an oath during his plea hearing before Judge Alberto Milian at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

At a lectern in the courtroom, Etienne expressed her frustration with the plea deal, which her lawyers have likened to a slap on the wrist. Etienne, surrounded by her lawyers and loved ones, said all she wanted as a child was a father figure.

Harold Ford, with the NAACP South Dade chapter, left, and Merilynn Etienne, far right, comfort her sister Keisha Etienne, center, as she cries during Albert Bassett's plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.Harold Ford, with the NAACP South Dade chapter, left, and Merilynn Etienne, far right, comfort her sister Keisha Etienne, center, as she cries during Albert Bassett's plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Harold Ford, with the NAACP South Dade chapter, left, and Merilynn Etienne, far right, comfort her sister Keisha Etienne, center, as she cries during Albert Bassett’s plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024.

Judge Alberto Milian speaks during Albert Bassett's plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Basset was previously charged with four counts of sexual battery of a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.Judge Alberto Milian speaks during Albert Bassett's plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Basset was previously charged with four counts of sexual battery of a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.

Judge Alberto Milian speaks during Albert Bassett’s plea hearing at the Gerstein Justice Building in Miami on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. Basset was previously charged with four counts of sexual battery of a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.

“We all bear the burden of seeing injustice,” Milian said. “…This is justice for all.”

Prosecutor Arvind Singh said he and others at the prosecutor’s office understand “the frustration” over the decision, though he added there are “countless reasons” for the agreement. He said he did not delve into the why “out of respect” for Etienne.

When attorney Sabrina Puglisi spoke to Milian, she said the plea was “based on the evidence.”

According to attorney Aaron Karger, who represents Etienne, Chief Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Hoague said in discussions about the plea deal that a jury could interpret Bassett’s payments for braces and other expenses from Etienne’s childhood as “reparations.”

And Hoague said it would be “too much of a burden” to have Bassett moved from his North Miami home, as he would be legally required to do if he were a registered sex offender and lived near places where children congregated. Public records show Bassett lives within a mile of several schools.

Neither Hoague nor Singh addressed Karger’s allegations during the hearing, although the Miami-Dade District Attorney’s Office told the Herald that Hoague never used the word “reparations” in discussions about the plea deal.

‘Justice and accountability’

Etienne, who turned to the judge as her “last hope” for justice, told how as a counselor she secretly struggled with fear, guilt and trauma for years. Bassett, she said, made her pinkie promise to keep the abuse a secret, even telling her that if she said anything he would go to jail and the family would lose everything.

Mentoring students at alternative schools, she said, gave her the strength to come forward. Her professional training revealed how she was groomed, through tactics such as isolation, manipulation and threats.

An undated photo of Keisha Etienne as a child.An undated photo of Keisha Etienne as a child.

An undated photo of Keisha Etienne as a child.

The Miami-Dade District Attorney’s Office has ignored her calls for justice, Etienne said. She said the first prosecutor assigned to her case included her in discussions about a possible settlement, kept in regular contact with her and supported her throughout the trial. The discussed offer, she said, would also include Bassett pleading guilty to the current charges and would have ordered him to register as a sex offender, undergo sex offender therapy and be barred from unsupervised contact with minors.

However, in late 2020, she was assigned to a new prosecutor — and soon felt like she was ineligible at the negotiating table. In discussions about the plea, the district attorney’s office would refer to Bassett’s age, she said.

Neither Hoague nor Singh addressed Etienne’s allegations.

Child abuse survivor Keisha Etienne, her attorneys and family members listen as Judge Alberto Milian confirms Albert Bassett's plea deal.  Basset, who stands on the left with his defense team, was previously charged with four counts of sexual battery of a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.  The plea deal approved Tuesday does not require him to register as a sex offender.Child abuse survivor Keisha Etienne, her attorneys and family members listen as Judge Alberto Milian confirms Albert Bassett's plea deal.  Basset, who stands on the left with his defense team, was previously charged with four counts of sexual battery of a minor and three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct.  The plea deal approved Tuesday does not require him to register as a sex offender.

The experience, she said, has “reminded me of my lack of voice in this world.”

“All I wanted to get out of this trial was justice and accountability,” Etienne said. “Justice to me means Albert Bassett admitting the harm he caused me, pleading guilty to the charges as they exist and registering as a sex offender.”

After the hearing, Etienne told reporters she sought justice for her 9-year-old self.

“While I am disappointed with the outcome of today’s hearing, I will stand in my truth and be a voice for the voiceless.”