Foster parent accused of sex abuse denies plea deal

A former foster parent pleaded not guilty to multiple sex crimes against children in Gaston County court Tuesday morning.

James Terrell Austin, who remains in jail under a $1 million bond, rejected a plea offer and a trial date was set for July.

The 33-year-old Gastonia man was initially assigned a $500,000 bond when he was arrested in September. A grand jury indicted Austin in February and the bond was doubled.

Austin is accused of committing sex acts against a girl under the age of 13 at which time he served as a foster parent.

The incidents date back to 2009, according to police reports.

Austin is charged with five counts of first-degree sex offense against a child, four counts of indecent liberties with a child, five counts of sex offense in a parental role and four counts of first-degree rape of a child.

The plea deal would have meant 12-15 years in prison for Austin, who has no previous child sex crimes convictions, according to Assistant District Attorney Megan Rhoden.

The case is set to go to trial July 23.