Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

February 8, 2014

Mistrial for Spaulding

PRINCETON — After three days of testimony and six hours of deliberations, the trial of Mercer County man facing charges including sexual assault and possession of child pornography ended Friday with a mistrial.

Jurors listened to closing arguments Friday morning for the trial of John Spaulding, 41, of Montcalm. Spaulding was previously indicted on six counts of sexual assault the first degree, attempt to commit a felony, and 50 charges of possession of material depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The jury began its deliberations at approximately 11:15 a.m. after Circuit Court Judge William Sadler gave its members their instructions, and Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler and defense attorney Harold Wolfe presented their closing arguments.

By 5:35 p.m. the jury sent Judge Sadler a message stating one female juror was having chest pains and anxiety attacks, and indicated she could no longer participate. Wolfe moved for a mistrial, and Sitler said the state was opposed to granting a mistrial.

Sadler suggested to the jurors that they go home, rest, and continue their deliberations Saturday morning. While the jury considered this idea, Sadler researched whether he could recall an alternate juror who had been released from service before deliberations began.

The jurors returned to the courtroom and said they could not continue, and Sadler said he could not find a case in which a similar situation had occurred. He also determined that bringing an alternate juror back after deliberations had started would not be possible; West Virginia law did not specifically state that this could be done. The 12-member jury started with two alternate jurors, but one of these alternates joined the jury after another juror became ill and could not report for duty Wednesday.

“I have no choice but to declare a mistrial,” Sadler said.

A status hearing was scheduled for Feb. 13 to set a new trial date. Wolfe and members of the Spaulding family declined to comment.

In his closing arguments to the jury, Sitler said that text messages and other evidence showed how Spaulding received child pornography photographs from Kimberly Cox, 38, of Nemours, and made arrangements with her to meet at a Bluefield motel so he could have a sexual encounter with a 3-year-old girl.

Cox testified Wednesday that she met Spaulding when he became acquainted with a fictitious person she had created, Anna Barker, on the Internet. Spaulding said Thursday when he testified that he believed Anna existed and that Cox was her friend, and that they traveled together several times to meet Anna. Spaulding said he gave Cox money to give to Anna, and spent so much of the money he earned at Bluefield Beverage that he could not afford to move from his parents’ home.

Sitler said in his closing argument that Cox told lies “to keep the attention of the men in her life.” Despite knowing Spaulding for six to seven years, “he never gave her the credit of being called his girlfriend,” despite having some sexual encounters.

Cox began creating and sending child pornography to Spaulding after she sensed he was getting tired of pursuing the fictional Anna, and he expressed interest in children, Sitler said. At first, she sent photos of a 14-year-old girl, but put off Spaulding’s request to see her and decided to “target” a child less conscious of what was happening to her, Sitler said.

Text messages entered into evidence showed how Spaulding and Cox arranged to meet at a Bluefield motel so he could assault the 3-year-old girl in Cox’s care, Sitler said. The traffic was harmful to Cox’s own case, he added.

“There is no reason to create this traffic implicating her on sexual assault,” Sitler told the jury. “It defies common sense.”

In a statement Spaulding gave to the West Virginia State Police on July 27, 2012, he said that there was “tons” of child pornography on a computer that investigators had seized at his home.

“There’s a lot of stuff on there. I know it’s there,” Spaulding said in a recording played to the jury. “But I didn’t put it there. I’m telling you straight.”

 Sitler argued the pornography Cox allegedly sent to Spaulding was sent from her cellphone to his phone. Some photographs on Spaulding’s computer were unopened, but this does not mean that they were never viewed, and there were “thousands” of other child pornography images on the computer, he said.

Wolfe told the jurors that Cox manufactured the evidence against his client in order to escape the possibility of getting hundreds of years in prison. She received a sentence of 25 to 55 years after pleading guilty to sexual assault and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, but she was facing 169 years to 420 years before a plea agreement was reached, he said.

“Kimberly Cox doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about anything but Kimberly Cox,” Wolfe said. Cox kept Spaulding believing in her alter ego, Anna, for years in order to get money, he stated.

“John Spaulding is a gullible, desperate fool,” Wolfe said of his client’s previous behavior.

Records show that Kimberly Cox was never at the motel where Spaulding had his alleged encounters with a child, and kept changing the motel’s name when giving investigators a statement. Cox also created realistic court orders and other documents to keep Spaulding believing in Anna’s existence, and placed the child pornography in his computer, Wolfe said. Members of Spaulding’s family testified how he allowed Cox and other people to use his computer, and how it was not password protected.

“Ms. Cox is smart. She’s slick,” Wolfe said. “What’s her reason for doing this? Four hundred and twenty years. That’s her motivation. She has no regard for the truth.”

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