February 6, 2009
Tim Pratt -
STARKVILLE -- A Mississippi Highway Patrol officer charged with fondling a teenage boy was found not guilty this afternoon in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.
Richard "Dane" Davenport, 46, was accused of fondling the boy, now 15, at a Starkville hotel the morning of Sept. 23, 2007. Both Davenport, of Vicksburg, and the accuser were in town for a Mississippi State University football game when the incident took place.
The jury this week heard the victim and the victim''s mother, who claims to have walked in on the incident, testify against Davenport. Two other witnesses this week also testified Davenport sexually abused them over the past two decades.
Defense attorneys John Zelbst and Chandra Holmes Ray, both of Oklahoma, repeatedly questioned minor inconsistencies in the stories told by Davenport''s accusers. Zelbst then spent his closing argument telling the jury why the inconsistencies created reasonable doubt in the case against Davenport.
The trooper, who has been on administrative leave for more than a year due to the allegations, has maintained his innocence and said he was only "wrestling" with the boy in a playful manner. He also denied the other two witnesses'' allegations.
The jury deliberated for roughly 90 minutes before returning its verdict.
"Thank you, Jesus," Davenport said and put his hands in the air when the verdict was read.
Since Davenport is facing additional fondling and sexual battery charges in Warren County, he would not comment specifically on his case, but said he''s "very thankful" the jury found him not guilty.