Bobby Panning, 39, enters the Van Wert County Court of Common Please Courtroom in this May 8, 2013 file photo. Panning, who is currently incarcerated, pleaded guilty to  third-degree felony sexual battery on Thursday as part of a plea deal. (TB File Photo)
Bobby Panning, 39, enters the Van Wert County Court of Common Please Courtroom in this May 8, 2013 file photo. Panning, who is currently incarcerated, pleaded guilty to third-degree felony sexual battery on Thursday as part of a plea deal. (TB File Photo)

Times Bulletin Staff Report
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VAN WERT - Bobby Panning, 39, a Van Wert County native who is currently incarcerated at the Allen Correctional Institution, pleaded guilty in a plea arrangement which will allow him to avoid a jury trial which had been scheduled to begin on Monday. Panning pleaded guilty to third-degree felony sexual battery on Thursday and could be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison when he is sentenced on Oct. 16. Panning had originally been charged with first-degree felony rape and second-degree felony sexual battery.

Had Panning been found guilty of the original charges, he would have faced up to 18 years in prison at sentencing.

The case against Panning dates back to Oct. 9, 2002 when the incident is alleged to have happened. According to Van Wert County Sheriff Tom Riggenbach, there was an investigation 11 years ago but enough evidence for an indictment could not be found.

Panning remains incarcerated in Lima on unrelated charges.