Ex-deputy gets 2-year sentence; new trial possible

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 19, 2001

A former Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy was sentenced to twoyears in prison Friday after being convicted of fondling a15-year-old girl last October 29. However, Circuit Court JudgeKeith Starrett was seriously considering a defense motion for a newtrial.

Matt Lofton, 23, of 1914 Ivy Trail, was ordered to serve twoyears of a five-year sentence, with the last three to be servedunder post release supervision, and to pay a $1,000 fine and $1,000to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund. He was ordered to pay a$250 fine for a misdemeanor charge of contributing to thedelinquency of a minor.

During the sentencing hearing, Lofton’s parents defended theirson, telling the court how he graduated high school with honors andserved in the Marines.

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“We raised our son to be a good, Christian young man,” saidMalcolm Lofton, “and I don’t think he’s done anything wrong.”

Starrett said he was disappointed to hear Malcolm Lofton’sstatement.

“There was little doubt from the testimony about what happened,”Starrett said.

The victim said she would remember the incident that happened inLofton’s truck at a lumber yard on old Highway 51 for the rest ofher life, and she would never get over it.

Before pronouncing sentence, Starrett said he was disappointedthat the former deputy was indicted, but it was a serious offense,and there are laws to protect children.

While Matt Lofton was found guilty of touching, handling orfeeling a child for lustful purpose and contributing todelinquency, he was found not guilty of a more serious sexualbattery offense. The jury deliberated about three hours in reachingits verdict Thursday.

Following sentencing, defense attorney Wayne Dowdy presented andargued a motion for a new trial.

Dowdy said Starrett improperly commented on testimony during anobjection to the defense’s closing argument, and the judge alsoimproperly allowed the jury to verbally ask a question duringdeliberation instead of writing it down. The judge rejected thosearguments.

However, Starrett was considering a point Dowdy made regarding aspecific type of testimony admitted during the prosecution’s crossexamination of Lofton. The testimony involved Lofton’s sexualhistory with a 16- or 17-year-old woman.

When that type of testimony is admitted, Dowdy said the stateSupreme Court has ruled it is incumbent upon the judge to issue ajury instruction limiting how it may be considered by jurors. Atthe time, neither the defense nor the prosecution asked for thelimiting instruction.

Starrett said the situation was troubling, and he was concernedabout that aspect of Dowdy’s motion.

“I may have to sustain it,” the judge said.

Starrett took the motion under advisement. He indicated he wouldstudy the testimony and evidence over the weekend and possiblyissue a ruling on Monday.