BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — BEVERLY — A Beverly man was sentenced to 21/2 years in jail yesterday after pleading guilty to engaging in sexual acts with two girls who were 13 and 14 at the time and pledging them to secrecy about it by asking, “You guys aren’t snitches, are you?”
Chad Soper, 21, formerly of 50 Broadway, had been charged with child rape in one of the two cases, but to spare the two girls from having to testify at trial, prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges in exchange for his guilty plea. That agreement was accepted by Salem District Court Judge Sabita Singh.
Soper instead pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault and battery and unnatural acts involving a child.
Prosecutor Carolanne Hillis described how the incidents came to light in May when the younger of the girls, then 13, disclosed that she and Soper had engaged in sexual acts and that she feared she was pregnant.
The girl told investigators that they had met in April through a mutual friend, who turned out to be the other victim in the case, and that the three smoked marijuana. Soper then asked the younger girl to engage in oral sex.
A few days later, on April 11, they ran into each other again. The girl said she thought Soper was 18. The three ended up at the Beverly Golf and Tennis Club, where, the girl later said, Soper suggested that they have sex.
Though the girl, who was in middle school, suggested “I don’t know if I’m ready,” Soper encouraged her, saying, “You should — it’ll feel great.”
Later, when the girl, who had no previous sexual experience, worried that she had become pregnant, Soper allegedly told her not to worry, claiming, “I have a low sperm count.”
Subsequently, the older girl reported that she, too, had engaged in sexual activity with Soper when she was 14 and 15, after meeting him at the Balch Street Playground when she was in eighth grade. That led to charges of unnatural and lascivious conduct against Soper.
While the incidents did not involve force, a 13-year-old is not considered legally able to consent to sexual activity, leading to the original rape charge.
Both of the girls told investigators that Soper had lied about his age — one of them discovering the truth only when she saw a calendar in his apartment that had his birthday circled with a note “Chad’s 21st birthday,” which was April 3, according to court papers.
When questioned by police, Soper’s live-in girlfriend said she had no knowledge of the events, according to court papers.
Soper, when questioned in May, claimed to have “no clue” why they wanted to speak to him, then asked for an attorney and ended the interview.
Police got a warrant, and he was arrested in August.
Hillis said the plea agreement was the result of extensive discussions with Soper’s attorney, John Morris, as well as with the girls and their families.
Following his release from prison, Soper will spend five years on probation, during which he’ll have to wear a GPS bracelet that tracks his movements and have no contact with either victim or with any child under 16.
He will also be required to register as a sex offender.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.