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Man found guilty of sexual assault

November 20, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg man was found guilty Wednesday of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in February of 2002 after she sneaked out of her parents' home and was walking along a rural road.

Jurors found Jason Lee Caton, 23, guilty of two counts of second-degree sexual assault. Each charge carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison.

Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 26.

Caton, who was being held in Eastern Regional Jail without bail, did not testify and his attorneys did not call any witnesses. He spoke only once during the two-day trial. As the jurors took a break after the state rested its case, Circuit Judge David Sanders asked Caton whether he planned to testify.

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"I'm gonna keep my right to remain silent," he said.

Caton is to be in court next month, when trial dates will set in connection with two other sexual assault charges. Caton faces charges connected to the Aug. 30, 2001, assault of a 12-year-old girl and in connection with an April 20, 2002, incident in which a woman in her early 20s alleged that Caton made her perform sexual acts on him.

Jurors deliberated for three hours Wednesday afternoon before reaching a verdict. When Sanders read the verdict aloud, Caton stood without expression. The victim's parents held hands and the girl's mother started to cry.

"I hope the other two trials go just like this," the mother said afterward. Her daughter was not in the courtroom.

The Herald-Mail is not publishing the name of the girl because of its policy of not identifying victims of sex crimes.

Testimony began Tuesday, when all three of the young women took the stand. On Wednesday, two employees with the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab testified.

Lt. Brent Myers, supervisor of the laboratory's biochemistry section, said semen was found on the young woman's underwear. The semen had to come from Caton or, if he had one, his identical twin brother, Myers said. The chance of it coming from someone else was one in 11.2 quadrillion, he said.

Deborah Lawson, one of Caton's public defenders, asked Myers if he compared the sample against a national database to see if it matched another man's DNA.

"I know there's nobody else," Myers replied.

Caton's DNA also was found on evidence connected with the other two young women, Myers testified.

In his closing argument, public defender William DeHaven listed nine reasons that he said could create reasonable doubt, including the victim's demeanor one day after the rape when she was interviewed by police, and the fact that no semen was found on a vaginal swab when the victim was examined the next day.

DeHaven read a copy of the police report which described the girl as not being disturbed or distressed, and smiling and laughing occasionally during an interview with police.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said she was pleased with the verdict. Jurors had the option of finding Caton innocent or guilty of less serious crimes.

"We were pretty confident that this is a serial case," Games-Neely said after the trial.

She commended the courage of the young women. Although some cried outside the courtroom, all maintained their composure on the stand.

"Most victims who go through a sexual assault trial feel like they've been raped again," Games-Neely said.

None of the victims knew each other before the trial, but now find strength in their common bond, Games-Neely said. Each has promised to testify in all of Caton's trials, she said.

The teenager who was assaulted in February of 2002 and is now 17 and a high school senior, said she was walking along Cemetery Road around midnight when Caton pulled over in a car and offered her a ride. After she declined he left, but returned later on foot, she said.

He grabbed her belt loop and arm and dragged her off the road to a slightly wooded area, she testified. He pushed her to the ground, performed oral sex on her and then raped her. One of the sexual assault counts stemmed from the oral sex, while the other stemmed from intercourse.

In her closing argument, Games-Neely detailed what happened that night. When she reached the part where the girl was grabbed, Games-Neely told the eight men and four women on the jury, "Imagine the sheer terror of this. Because your worst nightmare is coming true."

Later she pointed to Caton, who sat behind his attorneys in a white shirt and black slacks.

"One in 11.2 quadrillion. Jason Caton," Games-Neely said.

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