Jury acquits man accused of sexual assault.

March 1, 2019

Mason County Courthouse

Jury acquits man accused of sexual assault.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

LUDINGTON – A jury found a 55-year-old Ludington man not guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) during a trial in 51st Circuit Court Thursday, Feb. 28.

Russell James Simpson, of 413 E. Dowland St., was facing a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison had he been convicted, said his attorney John Beason.

It took seven hours of deliberation for the jury to reach a verdict, Beason said. “They were deadlocked, but the judge sent them back,” he said.

The trial began Monday, Feb. 25, and a verdict was reached by the end of the day Thursday. Mason County Probate Judge Jeffrey Nellis presided over the trial, because Circuit Court Judge Susan K. Sniegowski recused herself. Sniegowski represented one of the witnesses when she worked as an attorney, Beason said.

Simpson was in a relationship with the victim’s mother, he said. He was originally accused of molesting both the girl and her sister, but the second allegation was dismissed. She claimed she was sexually assaulted by Simpson in 2014 but later recanted her story, he said. Jurors heard testimony from both girls.

The victim testified that the sexual assaults started when she was 9 years old. “She said it happened 624 times – three times a week for four years,” Beason said.

The case lacked physical evidence, because no physical examinations of the alleged victims were performed, Beason said.

“He is ecstatic,” Beason said of his client.

Simpson was arrested Dec. 21, 2017 by the Mason County Sheriff’s Office. He has a previous felony conviction for a non-sexual crime that dates back approximately 30 years ago, Beason said.

“Jury trials are the bedrock of our criminal justice system, and I would like to thank the jury for their careful attention and consideration of the evidence in this case,” said Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola. “We felt that we had a strong case with evidence which corroborated the report of our young survivor, including DNA evidence.

“Unfortunately, the jury did not see it as we did,” Spaniola said. “Not only do I thank the jury for their time and for service, I wish to thank, the investigating officer from the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Det. Mike Kenney, and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Glenn Jackson for their hard work in preparing and trying this difficult case.”

“The key to any trial is picking a good jury,” said Beason, adding that he doesn’t select jurors based on questionnaires. “I go with my gut.”

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