Remaining charges dropped against Bedford man

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But sentenced on assault and battery conviction

By Tom Wilmoth

A Bedford man, acquitted in September on three felony sex offense accounts, won’t face any more trials on the remaining nine charges he faced. He will, however, spend more than three years in prison on a domestic felony assault and battery conviction.

    Keith Lee Dotson, 35, was acquitted by a Bedford County jury in September on charges of attempted rape, aggravated sexual battery and forcible sodomy. He could have faced additional trials on three counts of forcible sodomy, one count of aggravated sexual battery and five counts of animate object sexual penetration in connection with the alleged assault of  two girls, both under the age of 13 at the time of the alleged attacks.

    Dotson was scheduled to go to trial last week on one of those charges, but Chief Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Wes Nance said the decision was made to drop the remaining charges.

    “We were actually very much prepared to go to a second and even a third jury trial,” Nance said of the decision. He said discussions with the alleged victims and their families led to the decision not to proceed on prosecuting the additional charges.

    Nance said a deal was made with Dotson in which he would accept a sentence on the assault and battery charge above the sentencing guidelines. Dotson also was ordered not to have any contact with either of the girls for 10 years.  “We decided to forego any additional jury trials with Mr. Dotson,” Nance said. Dotson received a five year sentence on the assault and battery charge, which involved a different victim, and will have to serve three years, three months of that sentence.

    Nance said there was some frustration from the first trial — that ended in an acquittal for Dotson after less than an hour of deliberation by the jury — because that had been expected to be the prosecution’s strongest case. He said because the defense had been able to successfully get the charges separated into separate trials, the alleged victims and their families felt they weren’t able to present the entire case to a jury.

    “They felt like they were never able to hear the full story,” Nance said. “It’s like trying to understand a book by only reading one chapter.”

    Nance said there was a fear  of putting the alleged victims through the emotional drain of additional trials with similar results as the first trial.

    The charges against Dotson had included one alleged incident during the time period of November 2003 to Jan. 1, 2004, and the majority of the charges that stemmed from allegations with a second girl under the age of 13 between Jan. 14, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007.

    Back in September, the jury deliberated for less than an hour in acquitting Dotson on the counts of attempted rape, aggravated sexual battery and forcible sodomy. Dotson was arrested last February on the charges.

    Originally Dotson had been scheduled to stand trial for all of the charges at once, but a motion by his attorney, David W. Steidle of Roanoke, to hold separate trials on the various charges was granted earlier this summer.

    Steidle said the strategy from the start was to have the trials separated, if possible. When that ruling was handed down by Judge James Updike at a motion’s hearing, it was estimated that Dotson could face as many as eight jury trials on the various charges.

    Part of Dotson’s defense had been that the charges were placed following an incident that led to the assault and battery charge against him last January. Dotson pleaded no contest to that charge back in August, but sentencing had been delayed pending the outcome of his trials on the other charges.

    Steidle said during the earlier trial that the charges had been an attempt by the girl “to punish” Dotson, calling it “an elaborate story,” and noting that the charges were made weeks after the incident allegedly occurred.

    The sentencing guidelines on the assault and battery charge called for about a two year sentence. The assault and battery charge was a felony charge because Dotson had two prior misdemeanor assault and battery convictions within the past 10 years, Nance said.

    “It’s a significant sentence for that,” Nance said. “They (the family) wanted to maximize the amount of jail time (on that charge) without having to go through the (other) trials.”