Comfort gets life sentence

OKEECHOBEE — Carlton ‘J.R.’ Comfort, 54, will soon be joining his younger brother, Tommy, in prison.

Thursday morning, April 21, Carlton was sentenced to five life sentences after entering into a plea agreement with the state. In exchange for his plea to five counts of sexual battery – victim under 12, perpetrator over 18, Circuit Court Judge Dan Vaughn adjudicated Carlton guilty and ruled that his sentences would run concurrently instead of consecutively.

Carlton Comfort

Carlton Comfort

Assistant state attorney Don Richardson said because Carlton molested the children in the 1990s, his sentence was based on what the law called for in 1991. Which means, Carlton will be eligible for parole in 25 years. If he had committed those crimes today and ultimately convicted, he would not be eligible for parole.

“He got the maximum the law would allow,” said Mr. Richardson’s of Carlton’s sentence. “I believe the defendant was culpable because he was an adult at the time (of the molestations). And, he put Tommy up to molesting those children at certain times.

“So, Carlton is the more culpable of the two,” he added.

Ironically, it was Tommy’s testimony against his older brother that brought about the plea deal.

Mr. Richardson said after Tommy, 37, was found guilty in January of four counts of sexual battery on a victim under 12, his goal was to not put the victims through the ordeal and trauma of another trial.

Tommy Comfort

Tommy Comfort

Tommy, who was a teenager when he committed his crimes, was sentenced to 30 years in prison on each count, and those sentences will run concurrently.

At Tommy’s trial, the women took the stand and bravely told the jury how they were raped and sodomized by the brothers. One of his victims was only 4 to 5 years of age.

When Mr. Richardson asked one of the victims how many times she was abused by Tommy, the now 28-year-old woman said: “I couldn’t even put a number on it. I don’t even know a number to throw out.”

At that two-day trial, another victim detailed for the jury how she looked into the eyes of her baby sister as she was being brutalized by Tommy.

“When he was doing it to her I tried to lock eyes with her, because I was afraid if she closed her eyes she wouldn’t open them again,” she testified, adding that tears were streaming down the child’s face as she was being molested.

But, the sexual abuse didn’t stop with the young girls. Tommy admitted that he, too, was victimized by his older brother. In papers filed with the court, the former U.S. Marine not only admitted to sexually battering the victims who were all under the age of 12, but acknowledged “… that I was molested by my older brother Carlton ‘J.R.’ Comfort during this same time period.”

As the victims Thursday morning stood in front of Judge Vaughn it was Carlton’s turn to hear from those he had molested. As he stood sobbing next to his defense attorney Rebecca Boldt, the victims told him how he had robbed them of their youth and referred to him as a monster.

“It’s been a long, hard road for us,” said one victim. “It keeps playing over and over in my head.”

Another victim asked him: “Why did you rape me? That question will never be answered. I will never forget what you did to me.

“You have changed my life forever. You stole my childhood,” she added.

Yet another victim told Carlton how he had “ruined the lives of all six of us.”

After he was convicted, Tommy agreed to testify against his older brother.

Carlton, 54, then chose to enter a plea instead of going to trial. The only thing offered him by Mr. Richardson was that his sentences would run concurrently instead of consecutively.

Carlton will receive credit for the 679 days he has already spent in the Okeechobee County Jail.

Judge Vaughn also declared that both Carlton and Tommy will be designated as sexual predators.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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