March 14, 2013 10:00:28 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - email@example.com
Christy McGough was found guilty Thursday. Sentencing is expected Thursday afternoon. This story is developing and details will appear in Friday's Dispatch.
Jury deliberations will continue today in the criminal trial of a woman accused of checking two juvenile boys out of New Hope High School without permission in 2011 and engaging in sexual acts with them on multiple occasions.
Lowndes County Circuit Judge Lee Howard recessed the jury Wednesday around 5:30 p.m. after three hours of deliberation failed to produce a verdict in the case of the State vs. Christy McGough, who faces two counts of sexual battery.
McGough, who was 33 at the time of the alleged incident, was arrested May 5, 2011 at her home, located at 1153 Lake Lowndes Road in New Hope. She now lives in Florida.
On the day of her arrest, law enforcement arrived on the scene to find two 15-year-old boys on the premises, both of whom told sheriff's deputies they had engaged multiple times in sexual acts with McGough, separately and together. One of the alleged victims was living with the McGough family at the time.
The Dispatch does not reveal the identity of juvenile victims or the victims of sex crimes.
McGough signed a statement that day asserting the allegations were true, but defense attorney James Powell said she was intimidated into making a confession, adding that she did not have her glasses and was under the influence of Klonopin, a benzodiazepine drug commonly used to treat seizures, panic disorder and anxiety.
But Lowndes County Sheriff's Office investigator Tony Perkins, who took the statement, told assistant district attorney and prosecutor Mark Jackson during his testimony Wednesday that he did not see McGough take any medication and she did not appear to have difficulty speaking or walking while shackled in hand and ankle cuffs.
Sarah Rickert, who has been head nurse at the Lowndes County Adult Detention Center for 10 years, testified she was the only nurse on duty when McGough was brought into the jail and she did not give her any medication during her overnight stay.
When asked by Powell if there were ever mistakes in the jail's log books, she replied, "We're all human."
Also in question is the bedroom door, which family members said did not lock properly, and victim testimonies that they blocked the door with a dresser that family members said was too heavy for one person to move alone.
Powell cited conflicting testimony in these details and others, characterizing the investigation as "shoddy" and noting in his closing arguments that Perkins did not examine the door or dresser and failed to collect physical evidence such as bed linens or a used condom one of the victims said he wore while allegedly having sex with McGough shortly before law enforcement arrived.
"All of it is an excuse for why (Perkins) didn't work the case the way it should have been worked," Powell said.
Jackson called Powell's allegation of conflicting witness testimonies a "smoke screen" intended to redirect the jury's attention away from McGough's signed confession and corroborating statements taken on the scene from both alleged victims, who have been friends since the third grade.
Both said they cared about McGough and enjoyed the sexual relationship with her, Jackson said.
One victim testified that he thought of her as his "best friend," telling the court that often, after sex, she and he would lie in bed together and he would confide in her about school and other things. He said they had sex four times -- twice one-on-one and twice as a threesome with the other alleged victim.
That juvenile, who was temporarily living in the house with McGough, testified that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with her on more than 30 occasions and wanted to move to New Jersey with her.
McGough was 18 years older than the boys, Jackson said, and as an adult, should have resisted.
"There is no requirement in law for a 15-year-old to act like an adult," Jackson said in his closing argument. "I'm not denying they wanted it, but they were acting like children. She was the adult, and...the right thing to say was, 'No-go.' But she indulged multiple times with people she knew were children."
The situation came to light when the mother of one of the alleged victims arrived at New Hope High School to bring lunch to her son, only to discover that he had been checked out of school without her permission by McGough.
Both boys were friends with McGough's 15-year-old stepson and were frequently at the house. He was in Orlando on a school field trip on the day of her arrest but testified that he was usually home when they were there.
"She was very nice to (my friends)," he said. "It didn't ever seem like she was treating them as anything more than a friend."
If the jury finds McGough guilty of sexual battery, she could face up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each charge.
If she is found not guilty of that offense, the jury then must consider the lesser count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which -- if it is deemed to result in "substantial harm to the child's physical, mental or emotional health" -- carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of no more than $20,000 per charge.
If she is convicted of the lesser count, the judge may use his discretion to suspend her sentence, requiring treatment at an approved public or private treatment facility.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.