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FORMER JUDGE, A SEX OFFENDER, PLEADS GUILTY TO FLEEING

A former judge convicted of sexually assaulting five women in his small-town courthouse pleaded guilty Tuesday to running from authorities to avoid prison.

David Lanier, 63, told U.S. District Judge Jerome Turner he made a "bad judgment call" in August when he went on the lam. He was captured two months later in Mexico, where he was living under an assumed name.

Lanier was convicted in 1992 of assaulting women who had legal matters before him or worked at the Dyersburg courthouse, where he was a chancery judge. One woman with a child custody case before Lanier said he forced her to perform a sexual act in his chambers.

Lanier was convicted under a 19th century law generally used to prosecute police officers and prison guards.

He had served more than two years of a 25-year sentence when a federal appeals court released him, saying there was no precedent for charging him under that law. But the U.S. Supreme Court told the appeals court to reconsider, and Lanier was ordered back to prison in the meantime.

When he vanished, the appeals court dismissed his appeal.

In addition to the more than 22 years left on his original sentence, Lanier could get up to five years for fleeing from justice. Sentencing was set for March 6.

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