A former employee of Dolly Parton's dinner theater Dixie Stampede was sentenced Wednesday to a nine-year prison term on charges of fondling child performers.

Armando Martinez Gonzalez, an illegal immigrant, entered a "best-interest" plea to aggravated sexual battery charges. That plea does not contest the charges against him and has the same legal weight as admitting guilt.

Authorities said Gonzalez will be deported after serving his sentence. Under the plea he could be freed in as little as three years.

Gonzales fled to Mexico after his indictment in 2004 but returned to the United States and was arrested March 1 in Nashville, N.C. He has been jailed in lieu of posting a $1 million bond.

He was charged with molesting four victims under age 13 in November 2004. Prosecutors said he fondled the children while helping them in and out of a wagon during the theater's Christmas show.

The Tennessee attraction serves four-course meals and entertainment on horseback featuring dozens of stunt riders.

Parents of the four children are suing the theater accusing it of failing to protect child actors.