POMEROY — Following a week-long trial in Meigs County Common Pleas Court, James L. Hess, 53, of Pomeroy, was convicted on six of the seven counts considered by the jury for alleged sexual crimes against four children under the age of 13.
Hess was indicted in October 2018 on four counts of rape, each a first-degree felony; three counts of gross sexual imposition, each a third-degree felony; and one count of gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony. A “nolle prosequi” entry filed before the beginning of jury deliberations dismissed one count of rape, stating that evidence was not produced at trial to support the allegations.
Following seven hours of deliberation, the jury returned the verdict late Friday night, convicting Hess of three counts of rape and three counts of gross sexual imposition, while finding him not guilty of the final count of gross sexual imposition. The jury also found Hess guilty of the specifications that the victim was under the age of 10 on each of the three rape charges.
In a news release, Prosecutor James K. Stanley explained, “Two counts of Gross Sexual Imposition are third degree felonies and relate to Hess touching an eight-year-old boy on his buttocks and penis for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification in 2017. One count of Gross Sexual Imposition is a felony of the fourth degree and relates to Hess touching a thirteen-year-old boy on his buttocks for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification in 2017. All three counts of Rape are felonies of the first degree and relate to Hess engaging in sexual conduct with an eight-year-old girl in 2015. Hess was found not guilty of a fourth count of Gross Sexual Imposition related to alleged sexual contact he had with a seven-year-old girl in 2017.”
Jury selection in the case took place last Monday morning, with opening statements and the first witnesses called that afternoon. Witnesses at the trial included the four alleged victims, children services and child protection center case workers, the mother of the defendant and Hess, who testified in his own defense. On Friday, closing arguments were made by Prosecutor James K. Stanley and defense attorney Jenny Evans before the jury was given instructions and began deliberations.
Judge Linda Warner remanded Hess to the custody of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office after the reading of the verdict.
Hess’ brother, John Hess, was convicted of Gross Sexual Imposition in 2019 for sexual assaults he committed in 2015 against the rape victim in this case.
In the news release, Stanley thanked “the staff in his office, including the investigator, assistant prosecuting attorney, and support staff for pursuing justice in this case for almost three years;… the Meigs County Victim Assistance Program victim advocates, past and present, who were there for these victims through the entire criminal justice process;… the Meigs County Department of Job & Family Services caseworkers and the forensic interviewers at the Child Protection Center of Chillicothe for investigating this matter and assisting the victims.”
“These children suffered so much, and I am so thankful that the jury listened to them, believed them, and gave them justice,” Stanley said. “Each child was incredibly brave this week, and I hope their healing process continues and that these guilty verdicts can aid them along that journey by providing a sense of positive closure on the criminal justice aspect of their trauma.”
Warner scheduled a sexually violent predator hearing in the case for 2 p.m. on May 28. Sentencing will take place following the hearing.
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