Granite Falls man convicted of raping teen relative

Aug. 25, 2014 @ 08:03 PM

A trembling Phillip Matthew Bright wiped his eyes with the collar of his orange jail suit as he was sentenced to 38 to 51 years in prison for repeatedly raping a teenage relative over a three-year period.

Moments earlier, the girl's mother, whom the News-Topic is not identifying to avoid identifying the victim, called for harsh punishment.

"He has betrayed every ounce of humanity that there is in this world," she said. "Some things are just unforgiveable, and this is one of those things."

Bright, 40, avoided a possible 100-year sentence by pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree statutory rape. He originally was charged with three counts of incest with a child.

Bright, a long-haul trucker from Granite Falls, was accused of starting to molest the girl in October 2011, when she was 13. Placing his hands on her quickly escalated to touching her breasts and tongue-kissing her, then finally sex, Assistant District Attorney Dawn Tutterow said. The sex continued through November 2013.

Two months later, Bright called the N.C. Highway Patrol from the road, said he had been having sex with the girl and wanted to confess.

Bright's attorney, Herb Pearce, asked for leniency because before these charges Bright had not gotten as much as a speeding ticket, and because he accepted responsibility for his actions by confessing to the crimes.

Judge Robert T. Sumner saw it differently.

"When you evaluate the crimes and circumstances surrounding it, it doesn't dictate a mitigated sentence," Sumner said.

In addition to the prison sentence, Sumner ordered that if Bright is ever released from prison, he will have to register as a sex offender and submit to satellite-based monitoring for the rest of his life, and he must have no contact with the girl or her family.

With that, Bright was led off by deputies to be turned over to the N.C. Division of Adult Corrections.