Earl Coleman

A 49-year-old Baton Rouge man who had been free on bail since his April conviction in the 2012 aggravated rape of an 8-year-old girl was sentenced Wednesday to a mandatory term of life in prison.

State District Judge Trudy White, over the objections of East Baton Rouge Parish prosecutors and the victim's family, had allowed Earl Coleman to remain free and live near the victim and her mother while he awaited sentencing so Coleman could be with his seriously ill mother.

White last month denied Coleman's request for a new trial but allowed him to stay out of jail on $10,000 bail. He continued to be electronically monitored.

The victim's mother said Wednesday she is elated that Coleman is finally behind bars. She added that her daughter is strong and doing well.

"I am so glad, so blessed that we made it through all of this," the woman said with her now-13-year-old daughter at her side. "It's over."

Robby Gill, one of Coleman's attorneys, said he continues to believe in his client's innocence.

"Our jury system in the best in the world, but it's not perfect. Sometimes the jury gets it wrong. The jury definitely got it wrong with Earl Coleman," he said.

The girl's mother said she's proud of her daughter for standing up for something "that will help her in the long run."

The woman said it was extremely stressful that she and her child had to live since April near Coleman after he was found guilty of raping the girl.

"What was bad about that was that he stayed so close to us. What was his mindset?" she said.

The woman said she forgives White for allowing Coleman, who she said stole her daughter's innocence, to stay out of jail after he was convicted. But she still questions the judge's actions.

"She never thought about my child," the woman said of White.

Coleman was arrested in spring 2013 and accused of raping the girl the previous summer. An arrest warrant said the girl went to Coleman to ask for some food, and Coleman picked her up, carried her to a bed and raped her.

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