James Allen Hydrick, a martial arts expert and reputed escape artist who claims to have psychic powers, was sentenced Friday to 17 years in prison for molesting five Huntington Beach boys last year.
Hydrick, 30, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of felony child molestation last week in a bargain with prosecutors, who agreed in turn not to seek the maximum 33-year sentence. Prosecutors also agreed to drop two other charges, one of failing to register as a sex offender and one of misdemeanor child molestation.
"The good aspects are that the kids don't have to come in and testify," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Koski said after the sentencing. All of the victims are ages 10 to 13.
As Orange County Superior Court Judge Luis Cardenas announced the sentence in the Westminster courtroom, Hydrick swayed back and forth while standing in a booth enclosed by a metal screen. A teen-age boy, one of his alleged victims, sat in the courtroom.
"I'm real happy," the boy said, adding that he wished that the sentence against Hydrick had been "a little more--20 to 25 years."
Hydrick could be eligible for parole in 8 1/2 years, depending on the credit he receives for good work time, Koski said.
Calling himself "Sir James," the 6-foot-2, 200-pound martial arts expert appeared on "That's Incredible" and "Ripley's Believe It or Not" during the early 1980s. He claimed that he was able to move objects across a room using only his powers of concentration but later admitted that the feats were performed through sleight of hand.
Police alleged that Hydrick molested the children from June to November last year in Huntington Beach. He had been living there for several months and had participated in martial arts demonstrations near the Huntington Beach Pier.
Police said Hydrick regularly took the boys home with him and taught them tricks in exchange for sexual favors.
Jerry Goldfein, Hydrick's attorney, said that Hydrick was satisfied with the plea agreement, but "I hate to see a guy who has so much talent be in jail for 17 years."
"The sad thing is they weren't used productively to keep him out of jail," he said.
Hydrick, a native of South Carolina, has said that he and his brothers and sisters were abandoned by their parents and grew up in public institutions and foster homes, where they were abused.
Goldfein said he found Hydrick to be "a very happy person" who sometimes displayed a childlike personality.
"He was emotionally as young as the (Huntington Beach) kids around him," Goldfein said. "It was always like kids hanging around with each other."
Police said Hydrick had been kept in protective custody since he was charged in January because he had escaped from at least three jails. Hydrick appeared on the cover of November's issue Inside Kung-fu magazine, where a headline read: "No Guard Could Break Him, No Prison Could Hold Him."
Hydrick was charged with destroying Orange County Jail property several months ago, when he allegedly tore a jail bench off a wall and broke a window. Goldfein said Hydrick had been taunted by jail guards. Those charges are still pending.
Hydrick was extradited from Georgia after a Huntington Beach police officer saw him as a guest on the nationally syndicated "Sally Jessy Raphael" television show, where he talked about his psychic powers.
Law enforcement officials acknowledge that when private security guards attempted to drive Hydrick back to California they became unnerved when they suspected he was using supernatural powers to rock the van. When the guards dropped Hydrick off in Johnson County, Ark., they warned county jailers not to look him in the eye for fear that he might cast a spell.