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76-year-old requests acquittal in rape, child molestation cases

Thomas Shifflet filed a motion Wednesday asking the court to acquit him of molesting a 3-year-old and three other sex-related charges, which a jury failed to reach a decision on earlier this month.

An Athens County jury found Shifflet, 76, guilty of one count of gross sexual imposition and not guilty of one count of sexual imposition March 19. The jury failed to reach a decision on Shifflet’s three other counts: one of rape and two of gross sexual imposition.

Shifflet filed a motion Wednesday through his attorney, John LaVelle, asking Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Ward to acquit him of three charges on which the jury did not reach a verdict and to declare a mistrial for his gross sexual imposition conviction.

The three charges were declared a mistrial, meaning Shifflet could be brought to a jury again.

LaVelle said in court documents “no reasonable mind could ever convict Thomas Shifflet” of the rape charge. Shifflet allegedly raped a 4-year-old by digitally penetrating her vagina at one of his daughters’ daycare centers between November 2010 and June 2011. LaVelle called the child’s story an “uncorroborated fantasy.”

He is asking the court to acquit Shifflet of allegedly molesting an 8-year-old at one of the daycare centers and molesting a 10-year-old in a car driving through Athens County for the same reasons, according to court documents.

Shifflet was convicted of one count gross sexual imposition for molesting a 3-year-old at one of the daycare centers on June 27, 2011. In court documents, LaVelle said Shifflet should be acquitted of the charge or it should be dropped to a sexual imposition, a third-degree misdemeanor, because the degree of the charge was not included on the verdict form.

Gross sexual imposition is a third-degree felony and carries a mandatory sentence of one year in prison. Shifflet could be sentenced to a maximum of five years, which Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said he plans to go for at Shifflet’s sentencing hearing.

LaVelle also said in court documents that the verdict was “coerced and compromised” because the jury, which deliberated for 19 hours, was not properly instructed.

LaVelle asked for Shifflet’s sentencing hearing, which is set for Friday at 1:30 p.m., to be postponed until the issues outlined in the motion are resolved.

Shifflet agreed for his bond to be revoked after the verdict was announced, so he could be taken to the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail because he had received threats on his life.

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