POMEROY — A jury returned a split verdict in the sexual assault case against a Pomeroy man involving a juvenile on Friday morning.
The more than three-day trial ended after nearly eight hours of deliberation, with John W. Hess Jr. found guilty of two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles. He was found not guilty of three counts of rape.
Hess Jr., 53, of Pomeroy, was alleged to have sexually assaulted a minor female, who is under the age of 13, on three separate occasions, as well as allegedly showing her pornography on one occasion.
The victim in the case testified about the acts which Hess allegedly committed against her, giving details of the encounters. She described an incident on her birthday, in a truck on the way to church and another in a camper where Hess resided.
During her testimony, recordings of interviews from 2015 and 2018 conducted with the victim by the Child Protection Center were played by the defense. Defense Attorney Britt Wiseman used the videos in an attempt to show that the victim had changed her story over time, first stating in 2015 that no one had touched her inappropriately, and then in 2018 when she spoke more of alleged encounters with another family member who has also been charged in a separate case.
Prosecutor James K. Stanley said following the verdict that he was “disappointed not to get the conviction on the three rapes, but was glad to have gotten the convictions they did.”
“I am very proud of the victim in this case,” said Stanley. “She was brave and courageous to get up there and tell a room full of strangers what happened.”
Hess took to the stand in his own defense during the trial, denying the allegations made against him by the victim. While on the witness stand, Stanley was permitted to ask Hess about his 2009 conviction which he admitted to.
Also testifying in the case was Prosecutor’s Office Investigator Michael Oliver who conducted the investigation in the case, as well as an interviewer and doctor from the Child Protection Center in Chillicothe who interviewed and examined the victim following the allegations.
Stanley said he will ask for the maximum sentence of seven years in prison when sentencing takes place. Hess will also be required to remain a registered sex offender as a result of the verdict.
Hess was already a Tier I sex offender following a 2009 conviction for gross sexual imposition in Morrow County. According to state records, Hess was released from prison in the spring of 2013 on that conviction. The allegations in the current case for which he was convicted took place as early as November 2013.
Hess still has the possibility of being found to be a “sexually violent predator” when he is sentenced next week, according to Stanley. If the judge were to find that Hess is a sexually violent predator then the possible sentence on the gross sexual imposition charges would be a minimum of two years and a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Sentencing is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.