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Plea to lesser charges preempts hung jury in sex assault case

Posted: November 4, 2011 - 2:23pm  |  Updated: November 4, 2011 - 10:16pm

Twitter @ValerieRowell

Three men on trial for sexually assaulting a teen at a party last fall pled guilty to false imprisonment just before a judge was going to declare a mistrial due to a hung jury.

The trial of Jason Scott Turner, 22, of Evans; Robert Lincoln Levy, 21, of Augusta; and Tyler William Davitte, 23, of Martinez, began Monday. The trio is charged with aggravated sexual battery in connection to an assault, which occurred at a home on Shaw Street in Martinez.

The jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon and were deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting as of Friday afternoon, Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine said.

The jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon and were deadlocked as of Friday afternoon. As Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet prepared to declare a mistrial, which would set the case for a retrial, each of the men pled guilty to a lesser charge of false imprisonment.

For the felony, which brings a punishment of up to five years in prison, Overstreet sentenced each man to 365 days in the Columbia County Detention Center followed by four years on probation.

“What has occurred at this thing (party) has put a black mark on this community,” Overstreet told the men after sentencing them. “You all have some time that you’ve got to make back to the community, the people involved in this thing. I seriously hope that you start paying back your community and doing something to build up the community instead of doing something to cast a doubt on it.

“I’m going to make sure that in all those years on probation, that you do something to improve this community, not necessarily put a mark on it.”

Police received information Sept. 20, 2010, about underage drinking, drug activity and sex at a Shaw Street home in Martinez owned by Donald Everett “Trey” Morrison.

The investigation found that in August, an 18-year-old girl was drinking at the home. Her friend passed out on the sofa while she reportedly went into a bedroom with one of the men. Two others came in and sexually assaulted her, police said.

A friend beckoned Clayton Edward Blanton into the room to record video with his phone. He recorded the activities, but before leaving he woke up the victim’s friend to tell her what was happening in the bedroom.

“There is a slime, an ick-factor that hovers over that house,” Levy’s attorney Jason Troiano said during closing arguments on Wednesday telling jurors that a not-guilty verdict would not equate to condoning the behavior at the Shaw Street house. “I think we can all agree on that.”

But the defense attorneys all argued there were holes in the case, including the victim’s lack of memory of the event and poorly documented chain of custody records.

Also part of the sentence, each man had to issue an apology to the victim and to her friend.

“(The victim) has been through a lot,” Paine said. “The apology was important because it was them acknowledging that they were responsible for what they did.”

As part of a previous negotiated plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office, Blanton, 22, of Evans, pled guilty to unlawful surveillance in August. Overstreet sentenced him to 23 months in jail.

Davitte and Turner were taken into custody at the sentencing. Levy, who has been in jail for nearly nine months, gets credit for the time he’s already served.

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