Defense attorney to use accuser's past in sex case

Defense attorney to use accuser's past in sex case

May 25th, 2010 by Monica Mercer in News

A defense attorney said he found out "by accident" that the juvenile girl accusing a former sheriff's deputy of sexual battery made similar allegations in the same court against a different person that authorities dismissed because of lack of evidence.

Attorney Jesse Dalton said Monday, however, that Hamilton County prosecutors knew about the accuser's history of making sexually-oriented allegations and failed to reveal it in the current case against ex-deputy James E. Spates.

Tennessee's rape shield law in general prevents defense attorneys from highlighting an accuser's sexual past for purposes of defending someone accused of a sexually-oriented crime.

But there are exceptions, such as when there is evidence an accuser may have made false allegations of a sexual nature in the past, Mr. Dalton said.

Mr. Dalton has filed a motion in Hamilton County Criminal Court asking for all information surrounding the case against Derrick L. Burton, who apparently was accused of some type of sexual attack against the girl before the allegations against Mr. Spates. Mr. Dalton wants to know exactly why prosecutors dropped the case against Mr. Burton and if there are any other cases in Tennessee where the girl was listed as an alleged victim of a sexual attack.

The new discovery in the case prompted Mr. Dalton and prosecutors to scrap Mr. Spates' June 8 trial date. A pretrial court hearing scheduled for Monday also was postponed.

Prosecutor Boyd Patterson said Monday he could not comment. the Hamilton County district attorney's office has a standing policy that no public comment is to be made about a pending case.

Mr. Dalton said his client always has claimed innocence. The new evidence in the case makes its more likely Mr. Spates, 46, will choose to go to trial, Mr. Dalton added, despite two other accusers having come forward since the girl's initial allegations in late 2008 and several settlement offers by prosecutors to coax Mr. Spates into pleading guilty.

"I can't foresee (Mr. Spates) accepting a guilty plea for what appears to be a lie," Mr. Dalton said. "At the same time, prosecutors have a vested interest in fully prosecuting a case involving a law enforcement officer. I can't see them swallowing their collective pride and dismissing it either."

Mr. Spates remains charged with four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and three counts of official misconduct.

The girl, who was 16 at the time and has a criminal history in Juvenile Court, claims Mr. Spates touched her inappropriately in December 2008 while transporting her to juvenile lockup. The two other alleged victims in the indictment claim similar treatment.