February 16, 2018 10:35:37 AM
A Lowndes County jury has found the defendant in a sexual battery case guilty of robbing a local convenience store at gunpoint, forcing the two employees on duty into a back room, sexually assaulting them and then driving one to West Point in February 2015.
Autravious Gaston, 36, spent the week on trial for two counts each of kidnapping, sexual battery and armed robbery, along with counts of grand larceny and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Late Thursday afternoon, after deliberating about an hour, the jury found him guilty on all counts.
District Attorney Scott Colom said he was pleased with the jury's decision.
"We are proud of the courage of the victims in testifying against Mr. Gaston, proud of the hard work of the Columbus Police Department for arresting him and proud of the jury for convicting him," he said.
Gaston's attorney, Steve Wallace, declined to comment with regards to his client.
"The jury's made their decision," he said.
Gaston will be sentenced later today. Though the case was supposed to go before circuit court Judge Lee Howard, Judge Jim Kitchens oversaw the case because Howard was out sick.
The two sexual assault victims, both of whom testified, sat with their families with tears running down their faces when the verdict was read in court. Gaston elected not to testify in his own defense.
The state rested Thursday after two days of witness testimony that painted a picture of how Gaston, early in the morning of Feb. 11, 2015, stole an acquaintance's car and drove to the Sprint Mart on Military Road where he pointed a gun at the two employees on duty, took some money and then forced the employees into a back room where the victims said he sexually assaulted them. He then drove one of the employees to West Point in a stolen vehicle.
Kidnapping and armed robbery are both crimes which carry up to life sentences in Mississippi.
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