Sentencing for Raleigh County man convicted of sexually abusing granddaughter delayed

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Legal proceedings for a Raleigh County man now convicted of sexually abusing his thirteen-year-old granddaughter will last at least another week.

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.

During today’s proceedings, Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield sought the maximum penalty, which would keep Hatcher behind bars for the rest of his life.

Hatfield said that the penalty would fit the crime.

“It’s based on the violence that our nature of instances. This involves someone that was a biological grandfather. It involved an attack by which the victim was rendered physically helpless by alcohol. There was a gun that was involved that was in the couch cushion where the defendant was sitting when the attack started, and the defendant’s lack of taking responsibility for his actions that the state recommended the maximum sentence,” Hatfield said.

The defense is seeking an alternative penalty of supervised confinement at home, citing severe health problems that Hatcher says he has.

Both the victim and Hatcher’s ex-wife spoke in support of the maximum sentence the judge could give.

Due to some legal maneuvering, however, Hatcher was not sentenced today.

The defense entered two separate motions: a motion for a post-conviction judgment of acquittal and a motion for a new trial.

The defense argued the definition of someone in a position of trust, saying that Hatcher had no real authority over the child.

It also disputed the instructions to the jury. West Virginia code allows someone to be found guilty of sexual abuse if the victim is threatened or incapacitated. Based on how the code is written, the defense argued that a jury can only find Hatcher guilty of one of those conditions at a time.

Based on that argument, the defense says that the jury was not given adequate instructions and did not truly come to a unanimous verdict.

Hatfield disagreed with the premise and compared the law to West Virginia’s criminal code for murder.

“It’s different modes of committing the same the same crime, that being sexual abuse in the first degree,” Hatfield said. “It doesn’t violate his right to a unanimous verdict because they don’t have to find either or. If they found either one of those things are present, then he’s guilty of the same, not a different one.”

Judge Burnside decided to consider the matter further and set another hearing for February 23. He will announce his decisions on both motions and potentially hand down the sentence at that date.

Hatfield said his office takes cases like these very seriously.

“They’re crimes of paramount concern. They are dangerous for the individual children involved. They’re dangerous from a public safety perspective as to who may be a prospective victim in the future. So it’s something that we have taken seriously, and we’ve been able to prosecute more pedophilia cases, more underage sex cases in the last three and a half years than I would venture to say in the last decade,” he said.

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