Scott Dean was booked into the Columbia County Detention Center at 7:29 p.m. Thursday, just hours after a jury found him guilty on two counts of child molestation.
Dean then was placed alone in a cell “for his safety,” said Columbia County Sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris.
There, Dean will await sentencing for his conviction on the charges that carry as much as 20 years per count. A hearing for sentencing has not yet been set.
Thursday’s conviction was the end of a more than one-year legal saga for the 42-year-old former Harlem mayor and Columbia County commissioner, who in 2010 survived a Republican primary re-election to the District 4 commission post after a scandal involving “inappropriate” text messages exchanged with a married county employee.
Dean then was re-elected without opposition in the general election, and indicted in February on two child molestation charges involving one of the five children he and his wife adopted from Guatemala. He then immediately resigned.
Dean’s trial began Monday following several months of routine procedural delays. After three days of testimony the case went to the jury Wednesday afternoon. Jurors resumed deliberations Thursday, reported after lunch that they had reached a verdict on one count and deadlocked on the other, and were sent back to deliberations by Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr.
Finally, after more than seven hours of deliberation, the jury of seven women and five men returned the verdict: guilty on both counts. Polled individually by Blanchard, all jurors affirmed their decisions.
Blanchard ordered Dean’s bond revoked and had him taken into custody. Blanchard is expected to call a sentencing hearing soon.
After the court clerk read the verdict, Dean remained calm, hanging his head until deputies led him away. The room was silent except for the soft sobs of Dean’s wife, Renee, and eldest daughter, Marlin, hugging each other on the front row. Dean’s mother, Rikki Dean, in obvious shock at the verdict, held her hand over her mouth as jurors silently filed from the room.
Dean was convicted of charges that he exposed himself to and inappropriately touched one of the adopted daughters, 15 at the time of the incidents.
As news of the conviction filtered from the courtroom, Dean’s friends and former colleagues were stunned at the verdicts.
Harlem City Councilman John Thigpen served with Dean when he was mayor of Harlem.
“I’m honestly shocked,” he said. “I’ve known Scott a while and I’m finding the whole thing hard to believe.”
Thigpen tried to offer Dean encouragement when the two spoke Wednesday evening.
“I talked to him (Wednesday) night and he was calm,” Thigpen said, “but I could tell he was in a nervous state and naturally worried. I told him to keep his head up.”
“Oh, my God,” said longtime Harlem resident Jack Hatcher. “I didn’t feel like it was compelling evidence. The girls changed their stories. They first said they lied about it.”
According to the indictment, the victim accused Dean of crawling into her bed and touching her vaginal area some time between Sept. 1, 2008, and Oct. 11, 2010.
Dean’s defense attorney Pete Theodocion claimed during the trial that when Marlin ran away to Mexico in October 2010, she left her younger sister behind. Angry that Marlin left her, and because of tension with Dean’s wife, Theodocion said the girl made up the allegations to escape the home.
The victim, now 17, testified that Dean crawled into her bed at night and touched her. She also said that Dean exposed himself to her by opening a towel he was wearing and said he wanted to have sex.
Marlin, who heard about the allegations just days after she ran away to Mexico with a boyfriend, insinuated to Columbia County sheriff’s investigators trying to interview her by phone that Dean tried to have sex with her. She later recanted, claiming she lied to make people feel sorry for her and send her money.
A few people testified during the trial that the victim and her younger sister met with Dean’s wife and a family friend and said they lied about the allegations. But during her testimony, the victim stood by her story.
Witnesses during the trial included state Rep. Ben Harbin and Dean’s former campaign manager, Sarah Harper Scott, who testified on Dean’s behalf, and District Attorney Ashley Wright, called as a rebuttal witness to deny Marlin’s testimony that Wright had called Marlin a liar when discussing the allegations.
Dean was banned from the family’s Harlem home in October 2010, after the Department of Family and Children Services temporarily removed the adopted children from the home.
The Harlem High School graduate served on the Harlem City Council and more than five years as the city’s mayor before being elected to the county commission in July 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Lee Anderson.
Bill Morris replaced Dean as the District 4 Columbia County Commissioner last year in a special election. He didn’t offer an opinion on the outcome of the trial.
“I’m just glad that it’s over,” Morris said. “It’s been a fast ordeal. I just want us to move forward.”