Foster parent on trial for child sex crimes



 A former foster parent accused of sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl will go on trial this morning.

Jury selection in the trial of James Terrell Austin concluded Monday afternoon. The 12 Gaston County residents will decide whether or not the 34-year-old man committed sex acts against a girl who was in his care in 2009.

The child, now 13, has since been adopted.

Austin, who remains in jail under a $1 million bond, rejected a plea offer in June.

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 firstdegree rape of a child.

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

Austin has been in Gaston County Jail since his arrest in September 2011.

Potential jurors were questioned for hours Monday by prosecutors Rhonden and Stephanie Hamlin, and defense attorney Gus Anthony.

Each man and woman was asked if they had ever been victims of sex crimes and if they were capable of hearing testimony and evidence on the subject.

The trial, overseen by Superior Court Judge Bob Ervin, is expected to take about a week to complete.