SIDNEY — After three days of trial, and three hours of deliberation, the jury seated for the trial of Jackson Center Police Chief Joseph Cotterman returned a not guilty verdict.
Cotterman, 36, a Jackson Center resident, had been charged with gross sexual imposition, a fourth degree felony, and was accused of having sexual contact with a 19-year-old female on Jan. 27, 2016.
The jury also had the option of a lesser charge of sexual imposition, but they found him not guilty on that charge as well. The case was officially dismissed.
A charge of rape against him for an alleged incident in 2009 is scheduled for a status conference on Feb. 13.
On Thursday in the Shelby County Common Pleas Courtroom, after hearing more testimony from Detective Chris Brown about his investigation of the incident, the state rested their case.
Defense Attorney Jeremy Tomb then called Jackson Center Lt. Police Chief Chuck Wirick, now interim chief, to the stand. Tomb asked him questions regarding his interactions with Cotterman on the day of the incident and what Cotterman had told him of his interactions with the victim.
Wirick testified he knew very little about what happened on the day, just basic information.
Tomb asked him if police officers typically give members of the community help, referring to the money and phone given to the victim by Cotterman.
“Police do go out of their way to help the public because it’s a small town, and we have time to,” Wirick said.
He said he’s never personally given anyone money or a cell phone though.
Called to the stand next was the victim’s husband. He was asked by Tomb about specific incidents involving the victim’s mental health. Tomb also asked, “Does she have a reputation of being truthful?”
“No, not all of the time,” the husband said.
The defense rested on that point and moved on to closing arguments.
Prosecutor Tim Sell used the time to give the jury specific definitions about what was being alleged and what the law about that stated. He talked about what he had to prove and why he thought he had proved that.
“No means no,” Sell repeated several times. “We know what to do. We stop, there is no exception. This is basic stuff, an experienced law enforcement officer knew that.”
Sell explained she was in a stressful and vulnerable situation and Cotterman took advantage of that as he was in a position of trust as a police officer.
He told the jury not to pay attention to the “bright shiny things over here” the defense wanted them to pay attention to.
When the defense started their closing, Tomb said he had the jury pay attention to the little details to see that the victim’s story wasn’t consistent. He explained to the jury it was up to them to decide credibility of the victim and defendant.
Tomb said both of them weren’t truthful, but the DNA was more consistent with Cotterman’s story.
He explained Cotterman went to her in her time of need. “The only person who cared about (the victim) was my client.”
Tomb finished by saying there was a lot of “he said she said” in this case. And told the jury he didn’t think they could find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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