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Jury returns mixed verdict in Richard Lamerton's Hernando molestation trial

BROOKSVILLE — The clerk read the jury's verdict line by line. The first two read not guilty.

Richard Lamerton, facing allegations he molested a teenage relative, nodded appreciatively Thursday evening. The jury spared him from the worst. He smiled slightly and mouthed a "Thank you" to jurors.

But his satisfaction was premature. On the remaining six counts: all guilty.

Nude photos of the girl found on Lamerton's computer substantiated one count of use of a child for a sexual performance and five counts of possession of child pornography.

Lamerton escaped a charge of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation.

The 50-year-old former Spring Hill resident still faces a maximum 40 years in prison. Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing set sentencing for July.

Assistant State Attorney Brian Trehy called the mixed verdict "understandable."

"They found him guilty on the counts where the evidence was clear and abundant," he said, referencing the explicit photos they saw at the trial.

The only evidence supporting the molestation charges was the testimony of the woman, now 21, who came forward two years ago to describe abuse that began at age 15.

Sean Cox, Lamerton's attorney, said he was "obviously disappointed by the verdict" but he plans to challenge the validity of the sexual performance charge on appeal.

The jury deliberated for more than three hours after three days of graphic testimony. The victim left the courtroom before the verdict was read.

Earlier in the day, the prosecutor closed the case saying Lamerton took an "unhealthy and illegal" interest in the girl, offering to take photos to help with her modeling career. Authorities found 97 nude or partially nude photos he allegedly took and saved.

"These are not photos taken to further a modeling career," Trehy asserted. "These are photos taken to further (his) sexual arousal."

But Lamerton's attorney said the girl's mother took the photos. He depicted his client, a former respiratory therapist at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Spring Hill Regional Hospital, as a selfless man being blamed for something he didn't do. He attacked the credibility of the woman's claims and reinforced the denials his client gave in his testimony a day before.

"This whole case is about who you believe and who you don't believe," Cox said.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 634-2629.

Jury returns mixed verdict in Richard Lamerton's Hernando molestation trial 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 7:32pm]
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