For the third consecutive time in four years, a sexual abuse case in Tyler County has been ruled a mistrial due to a hung jury.
Ronald Lee Bassett, 40, of Route 1 Box 242, Middlebourne, went to trial on May 26 to face a 14-count indictment alleging various sexual offenses perpetrated by him against his daughter in July 2006, including sexual abuse in the first degree, sexual abuse by a parent and indecent exposure, among others.
However, after four days of testimony and deliberation, the jury could not come to an agreement on Bassett’s guilt and Judge Mark Karl ruled a mistrial.
“I am disappointed in the outcome but we must take into consideration that the jury didn’t find him not guilty either. We still have options,” remarked Prosecuting Attorney Luke Furbee.
During the trial, the jury heard from the alleged victim herself along with two qualified professionals who supported her testimony, though it wasn’t enough to convince all members of the jury.
“If I would’ve had a tape of the alleged incidents or DNA, I would have used it,” commented Furbee. “But these are cases of silence and secrecy, therefore it’s not difficult for the defense to put the victim on trial as well and it comes down to a question or credibility.”
This is especially true since defendants are not required to testify.
In addition to the testimony, the prosecution also put on evidence Bassett’s prior convictions. In 1995, he was found guilty on two counts of first degree sexual abuse for which he served a sentence of approximately five years in a correctional facility. The victims of the crimes were two female family members between 0-5 and 6-12 years of age.
But for now, Bassett is rejoicing over his latest victory, maintaining his innocence until proven guilty.
“It is my belief that the jury was a good cross section of the average jury in Tyler County,” remarked Roger Weese, attorney for the defense. “They considered all the evidence and the state failed to meet the necessary burden of proof to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
As for the prosecution, they are keeping their options open. “We aren’t going to quit prosecuting these cases…it’s the right thing to do.” Furbee stated.
Also appearing before Judge Karl were Terry L. Francis and Raymond Jarvis, both indicted in February 2009.
Francis, 20, of 147 Dry Run Road, Sistersville, was indicted on one felony count of sexual assault in the first degree and one felony count of sexual abuse in the first degree. He pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and was sentenced to 5 to 25 years in prison. In return for his plea, Furbee moved for the dismissal the charge of sexual assault. It was granted.
Jarvis, 45, of Vienna, was indicted on one count of felony grand larceny and one felony count of petit larceny second offense. He pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to one year for felony grand larceny and one year for petit larceny second offense. He will serve his sentence for grand larceny concurrent to a one to three sentence handed down from Wood County for third offense DUI and his sentence for petit larceny consecutive to those two terms.