Hatcher sentenced for sexual abuse of granddaughter

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) A Raleigh County man has been sentenced to prison for at least 12.5 years in prison for the sexual abuse of his granddaughter.

Robert Hatcher, a 65-year-old man from Sophia, was convicted by a jury last year for giving his granddaughter alcohol, sexually assaulting her, and filming her unconscious and naked afterward.

Today, Judge Robert Burnside handed down sentences for all five counts that Hatcher was convicted of. Counts 1, 2, and 3 and Counts 4 and 5 are grouped together, and the sentences in that group will be served concurrently.

The two groups of charges will then be served consecutively.

Altogether, Hatcher must spend at least 12.5 years in prison and no more than 35 years. If he is released, his supervised release will span 25 years and he must register as a sex offender for life.

Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield sought the maximum penalty and said he was satisfied with the “hefty” sentence handed down by the judge. He said his office takes these cases extremely seriously.

“When you have a case like this involving a biological grandfather, these are the people that are charged both legally and culturally with taking care of these children. When they’re the ones that are exploiting them, it’s a paramount concern to the state,” Hatfield said. “We want to protect our children and we want to make sure that anyone that’s doing this kind of thing, in the micro, we stop them from hurting their individual child, but in the macro that we levy heavy sentences so that it acts as a deterrent effect to anyone that is thinking about engaging in this in the future.”

Due to Hatcher’s age, Hatfield thinks he is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“He’ll have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, as well as do 25 years post-release extended supervision. That is, if he’s ever released due to his advanced age and the hefty sentence. I don’t know that that would be the case, but those two things are there.”

Further, Hatfield rejected the defense’s argument that Hatcher should get home confinement instead of time in prison based on his physical fitness. Hatfield said that Hatcher is in the same condition that he was in when he committed the crime.

During last week’s hearing, the defense introduced two motions. Judge Burnside then took the matter into consideration, and moved the sentencing announcement back a week.

Those two motions were a motion for a post-conviction judgment of acquittal and a motion for a new trial. The defense argued that Hatcher was not a person in a position of trust and had no real authority over the child.

It also argued the definition of sexual abuse under West Virginia law and that the jury was given improper instructions. In the end, Judge Burnside dismissed both.

There was some question of whether or not the ruling would be given via a written order instead of in open court. Ultimately, Judge Burnside decided it would be more appropriate to publicly announce the sentence in a hearing.

Hatfield said that he agreed with that decision.

“I think it’s important that those [rulings] be delivered audibly so that the defendant knows so that the victim and their family knows, and so that everyone knows what those rulings are in the rationale that went into those,” Hatfield said. “I think it’s always important that sentencing be done in person.”

Hatcher was sentenced on the following counts:

Count 1: First Degree Sexual Abuse, one to five years in prison.

Count 2: Second Degree Sexual Assault and Intercourse, ten to twenty-five years.

Count 3: Exploitation by a Parent or Guardian, ten to twenty years.

Count 4: Possession of electronic material of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct with intent to view or display, two to ten years.

Count 5: Having custody or control of a minor for use in filming a sexually explicit act, ten years.

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