ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Richard Thomas Rushton, 63, 329 High Street, Flushing, appeared before Judge Jennifer L. Sargus in Belmont County Common Pleas Court Monday and entered an Alford plea and was found guilty on two counts of sexual battery, felonies of the second degree. Sentencing was set for Nov. 19.
An Alford plea occurs in cases where a defendant claims innocence but recognizes that sufficient evidence for a conviction exists.
He had faced two counts of rape of a child younger than 10, felonies of the first degree occurring 1999. A conviction on either count carries a possibility of life imprisonment. He was also accused of gross sexual imposition. During the hearing, Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said it was necessary to dismiss these charges.
"This matter was initially investigated by another county. It has been discovered that there are significant problems in how that evidence was gathered in that initial investigation. While in the state's view it doesn't effect our belief in the culpability of this defendant, if effects our ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt in those counts," he said.
Rushton faces a maximum of 16 years.
Charges were filed in Belmont County Court November of 2010. Rushton was indicted in. It has been almost a year since he was found in Italy after failing to keep his court date. The prosecutor's office has since worked with the Italian legal system to extradite him.
Rushton had worked as a professor at Bethany College - specifically as an assistant professor of education and chairman of the Department of Education.
He was also director of Teacher Preparation Programs and faculty adviser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He had been a teacher for 20 years.
James Damico, 47, 103 Washington Avenue, Bethesda, pleaded guilty to trafficking in drugs, a felony of the fourth degree, and trafficking in drugs in the vicinity of a juvenile, a felony of the third degree. His sentence was set for Nov. 19.
Michael Edward Scott, 22, 2250 Seneca Street, Bellaire, admitted to violating his probation and was sentenced to 30 more days in jail, with credit for 15 days served. He will forfeit $1,254 to the drug task force and he will be evaluated by Crossroads. He was originally charged with trafficking in drugs, a felony of the second degree occurring April 8, 2010.
Yuan Ping Xiao, 23, 120 Gamble Avenue, Elm Grove, NY, pleaded guilty to compelling prostitution with a drug specification, a felony of the third degree occurring April 8, 2012. He was sentence to six months EOCC, six months community controls. He will be delegated a Tier 2 sex offender.
Douglas Ryan Johnston, 36, 66990 Visnic Road, Belmont, pleaded guilty to DUI, a felony of the third degree occurring Sept. 15. He will be sentenced Nov. 19.
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