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Motion granted

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By Tom Wilmoth

A Bedford County man may appear before a Bedford County Circuit Court Jury for as many as seven separate trials, following a motion to have separate trials on the 12 felony charges he is facing.

Keith Lee Dotson of Otterhill Road, was charged in February with 12 felony sex offenses involving two girls under the age of 13. Dotson faces four counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of aggravated sexual battery and five counts of inanimate object sexual penetration.

Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James Updike granted the motion made by Dotson’s court-appointed attorney, David W. Steidle of Roanoke. The motion to separate the trials on each charge means that there could be as many as seven different trials on the charges. Each alleged incident, and the resulting charges from those, could be tried by a different jury. In effect, it could mean that Dotson would be on trial about every two weeks, by a different jury.

Bedford County Chief Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance said separate jury pools would have to be used for each trial. Potential jury pools in Bedford County are called each month, and could probably be separated into two separate pools per month for Dotson’s trials.

Having separate trials keeps the prosecution from being able to bring up information on other alleged incidents in which Dotson is charged. Only the alleged incident of the charges involved in the individual trials being held could be introduced. However should the defense, in presenting its case, open the door to the other incidents, the trials could then potentially be consolidated.

The charges against Dotson include one alleged incident that occurred with a girl under the age of 13 during the time period of November 2003 to Jan. 1, 2004. The majority of the charges stem from alleged incidents with a second girl under the age of 13 between Jan. 14, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007. That time period is expected to be narrowed to a more defined date on each charge.

Dotson’s first trial is currently scheduled for September.

In making the motion, Steidle argued that if the cases were tried together it would have hindered his client’s presumption of innocence with the jury. He said the jury could be inclined to decide “my client is just a bad man” and convict him on that.

A separate domestic assault and battery charge had already been separated from the other cases.

Nance said he had hoped to avoid having the victim in the case testify multiple times at each separate trial.

If convicted, Dotson could face five years to life on each of the forcible sodomy charges, one to 20 years on each of the aggravated sexual battery charges, and five years to life on each of the inanimate object sexual penetration charges.

While granting the motion to separate the trials, Updike denied a request by Steidle to hire a private investigator to help prepare his case.

Dotson is being held at the Blue Ridge Regional jail.