Cabot man sentenced to 5 years of probation for fourth-degree sexual assault

The lights of a police vehicle are shown in a June 24, 2021 AP file photo. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A 23-year-old Cabot man who fathered a child with a teenage girl last year has been sentenced to five years on probation after pleading guilty to two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Karen Whatley imposed the Aug. 3 sentence on William Paul Burris III after deputy prosecutor Justin Harper said the girl endorsed the plea agreement, and the girl told the judge that Burris is a "great father" to their son.

Court records show the girl's mother alerted authorities about Burris, who is formerly of North Little Rock, two weeks before Thanksgiving, with North Little Rock police arresting him in February.

The 16-year-old girl told police in November that she had fought off Burris' sexual advances in their most recent encounter a day earlier but that he had known her since she was 14 and he was 21, while their son was 10 months old. Examining the girl's cellphone in December, police found videos of Burris having sex with her, one of them showing a distinctive circular tattoo on his left hand.

In an interview before his arrest, Burris told detectives that the girl had told him she was 17, four years younger than he was, when they met. Burris described having sex with her once and using her phone to record their encounter. He said he never tried to force her to have sex, stating that he had only kissed her the last time he saw her in November.

Under the conditions of Burris' plea agreement, negotiated by defense attorneys Christen Carter and Leslie Borgognoni, three felony counts of engaging a child in sexually explicit conduct for use in a visual or print medium were dropped. Each of those charges was a Class Y felony that carried a potential life sentence.

The sexual assault counts are Class D felonies that carry up to 15 years each for repeat offenders like Burris, who has been on probation since January 2021.