No new trial for Lofton, judge rules

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Circuit Judge Keith Starrett Tuesday rejected a defense motion afor new trial for a former Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy who wasconvicted last week of child fondling and contributing to thedelinquency of a minor.

With the rejection, a motion for appeal has been filed and anappeal bond for Matt Lofton, 23, of 1914 Ivy Trail, has been set at$30,000, court officials said. Lofton was sentenced to serve twoyears of a five-year sentence on the child fondling charge, but thebond would allow him to be released pending his appeal.

Wayne Dowdy, Lofton’s attorney, had sought a new trial on thegrounds that Starrett failed to give the jury an instructionlimiting use of some cross-examination testimony involving Lofton’ssexual history. When that type of testimony is admitted, Dowdycontended, the state Supreme Court has ruled the judge must givethe limiting instruction regardless of whether the defense or theprosecution asks for it.

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However, in seeking to uphold the verdict, Assistant DistrictAttorney Jerry Rushing presented other case law where the court hadruled the error was not reversible error.

“In some cases, depending on the facts of the case, it isharmless,” Rushing said.

Based on that case law, Rushing indicated he believes denial ofa new trial in Lofton’s case was the right decision. The attorneysaid he was pleased with the judge’s decision.

While Lofton was found guilty of felony touching, handling orfeeling a child for lustful purpose and misdemeanor contributing todelinquency of a minor, he was found not guilty of a more serioussexual battery offense. The jury deliberated about three hours inreaching its verdict last Thursday.