Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 12, 2014

‘Society will demand justice’; Spaulding sentenced to 75 years in prison

PRINCETON — Calling the crimes “a perfect storm” of two “perverse personalities,” a Mercer County Circuit judge sentenced a Montcalm man to 75 years in prison on multiple sexual assault and possession of child pornography charges.

John Spaulding, 41, hung his head throughout much of Wednesday’s hearing, during which Judge William Sadler also denied a motion for a new trial. Several of Spaulding’s family members lined the front two rows of benches near where he was seated.

Spaulding was found guilty on April 3 on three charges of first-degree sexual assault and 50 charges of possession of child pornography. It was the second time a jury heard his case. In February, three days of testimony ended in a mistrial when one of the jurors became ill. Although Sadler offered to allow the jury to go home and continue deliberations the next day, the jurors determined they could not continue.

Attorney Harold B. Wolfe II, who represented Spaulding at both trials and the sentencing hearing, argued during the trials that his client had been “set up” by Kimberly Cox, 38, of Nemours. Cox pleaded guilty to sexual assault first degree and sexual assault by a parent, guardian or custodian. She testified at both of Spaulding’s trials.

No family members of the victims spoke at the sentencing hearing.

Speaking on behalf of the state, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said Spaulding had a “heaping helping of due process,” and asked for the maximum sentence. He noted that during his time as a prosecutor he had never “been more repulsed by any evidence.”

Wolfe asked the court for a “reasonable sentence — less than the maximum.” Spaulding declined to speak when asked if he wanted to address the court.

Sadler noted that Spaulding’s conviction on three counts of sexual assault involved a 3-year-old child. Citing a pre-sentencing report, Sadler said Spaulding “sees himself as a victim instead of an abuser.”

Spaulding thinks he is “too smart or too charming to be caught,” Sadler said, calling the crimes “inexcusable.”

“If there is any type of case where society demands punishment it is offenses involving children,” he said.

Sadler said Spaulding and Cox were found guilty of “basically, arranging a premeditated, pre-deliberated, thought-out, planned sexual assault on a 3-year-old child.”

He said Spaulding wants the court to believe he was a victim of Cox’s “nefarious dealings” and “subterfuge,” and noted that Cox was “stringing him along.”

“We have to look at Kim Cox’s motive,” Sadler said. “She wanted one thing — a relationship with John Spaulding. And she would do anything and everything (to get it), including the exploitation of a 3-year-old child.”

“Kim Cox is not a pedophile or a pervert,” Sadler continued, saying Cox committed her crimes in order to maintain a relationship with Spaulding.

“When were these offenses committed?” Sadler asked. “When Ms. Cox was losing her grip on him (Spaulding) ... That’s the only reason Kim Cox did this ... she was losing him.”

Sadler cited a number of text messages between Cox and Spaulding. “They didn’t accidentally occur,” he said.

Spaulding’s claim that Cox created the text messages is “preposterous,” Sadler said. “She did a lot of lying but she didn’t falsely create those. She had no motive to do that.”

Sadler said Cox had one purpose — “to get her claws on somebody.”

“She did not set Mr. Spaulding up ... she protected Mr. Spaulding to the very end,” he said.

Sadler noted that in his statement to the West Virginia State Police, Spaulding called Cox his best friend.

Sadler said the “smoking gun” in this case was actually a “smoking cell phone.”

“Where’s Mr. Spaulding’s cell phone?” Sadler asked, then answered, “He destroyed it.”

Sadler described the crimes as the culmination of “a perfect storm” of two “perverse personalities.”

“Society will demand justice,” he said, sentencing Spaulding to not less than 25 years on each of the three counts of sexual assault and two years on the child pornography charges.

Sadler then ordered the two-year sentence to run concurrently with the 75-year sentence on the sexual assault convictions.

Prior to sentencing, Sadler noted new legislation relating to the sentencing of those convicted of child pornography took effect in West Virginia on June 6. The new statute states that individuals convicted of possessing 50 or fewer images will be imprisoned for not more than two years.

“Case law is clear in that he gets the benefits from the change in the law,” Sadler said. He then merged the 50 counts of possession of child pornography into one count for the purpose of sentencing.

Earlier in the hearing, Sadler addressed several motions made by Wolfe in his request for a new trial. One involved a Brady violation, which is the failure to disclose evidence that may be favorable to a defendant. Sadler denied the motion, saying the state spent thousands of dollars on expert witnesses for Spaulding’s defense, and those experts had access to the evidence.

The experts spent “105 hours examining the evidence, and I think it is probative to the court that an expert was never called to testify,” Sadler said.

Cox was sentenced in January to a term of 25 to 55 years.

— Contact Perry at sperry@bdtonline.com.

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