Friday, November 10, 2006

Judge rejects Harrison motion for acquittal

Defense argument for new trial denied as well

Express Staff Writer

Robert Joe Harrison Jr. looks on during his jury trial in September. Harrison was acquitted of a second-degree kidnapping charge but was found guilty of misdemeanor child enticement. Photo by Chris Pilaro

Robert Joe Harrison Jr.'s bid for acquittal of a child enticement conviction was rejected Wednesday in 5th District Court in Hailey.

Judge Robert J. Elgee also denied a Harrison motion for a new trial.

"I think it would be a gross error if the court disregarded the jury's verdict," Elgee said during a court hearing Wednesday afternoon.

A Blaine County jury acquitted Harrison of felony second-degree kidnapping, but found him guilty of child enticement, following a three-day trial in September.

Harrison was accused of enticing a 10-year-old Hemingway Elementary School student into his vehicle in Ketchum on April 10. According to Ketchum police, the boy was released unharmed shortly after that.

Prior to his arrest on April 11, Harrison was a security guard for the federal Transportation Security Administration at Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey.

Harrison's public defender, Kevin Cassidy, of the Roark Law Firm in Hailey, filed motions for acquittal or a new trial in October.

The motion for acquittal alleged that Elgee improperly instructed the jury prior to deliberations, while the motion for a new trial requested that Elgee disregard the jury's verdict because of Cassidy's assertion that there was insufficient evidence for a conviction.

Cassidy's arguments on jury instructions centered on interpretation of the Idaho statute on child enticement. He argued and presented case law in an attempt to show that "intent" should be considered in application of the law.

But Elgee disagreed with Cassidy's interpretation, stating that it wasn't necessary to demonstrate intent in the statute used to convict Harrison.

"The crime is persuading the child to enter the vehicle," Elgee said.

In arguing for a new trial, Cassidy cited inconsistencies in the 10-year-old boy's testimony. He also pointed out that Ketchum police detective R. Scott Manning acknowledged that a photo lineup that was shown to the boy unfairly led the boy to identify Harrison as the one who gave him a ride.

Cassidy further argued that there were no fingerprints, fibers or DNA evidence linking Harrison to the boy.

But Elgee didn't agree and said he would have reached the same verdict as the jury.

"I'm not going to rehash the evidence, except to say that in my opinion (the boy) was a very credible witness," Elgee said.

Harrison, who now lives in the Walla Walla, Wash., area, was not at the hearing, but is scheduled to appear in court at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, for sentencing.

Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas has said that he will ask Elgee to impose the maximum sentence of one year in jail.

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