June 19, 2015

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) A judge in South Africa allowed former Grand Slam doubles tennis champion Bob Hewitt to appeal his six-year jail sentence on Friday for rape and sexual assault and extended his bail pending a higher court's decision.

Judge Bert Bam ruled that he would not, however, allow 75-year-old Hewitt to appeal his guilty conviction for assaults that happened in the 1980s and 1990s. Still, another court may hand Hewitt a different prison term, Bam said, ruling that Hewitt could appeal his sentence.

Defense attorney Johann Engelbrecht tried to challenge the judge's guilty verdict based on a lack of evidence and time elapsed between the trial and when the alleged crimes took place, but Bam said the prosecution's case against Hewitt was ''overwhelming.''

The decision to sentence the ailing Hewitt to jail was an ''onerous'' one, the judge said, because of Hewitt's age and poor health, and the decades since the alleged rape and sexual assault occurred. Hewitt's lawyer said he believes another court may find a sentence of non-incarceration ''fit and proper.''

Hewitt will be allowed to return to his home on a small citrus farm in South Africa's Eastern Cape province. If Hewitt's appeal is dismissed by a higher court, he must hand himself over to a local police station, said Bam.

Hewitt's accusers were not in court. The women have previously expressed dismay that Hewitt has not yet served jail time, despite a guilty conviction.

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