E'town man charged with incest requests bench trial

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Circuit judge will determine guilt rather than a jury

By Sarah Bennett

An Elizabethtown man facing multiple incest and sodomy charges filed a motion Tuesday in court requesting a bench trial.

George W. Beason Jr., 32, is charged with third-degree rape, three counts of incest, three counts of third-degree sodomy, six counts of first-degree sexual abuse, distribution of obscene matter to a minor and second-degree persistent felony offense.

Beason is scheduled to proceed to jury trial Jan. 23, but he has filed a written motion for his case to be tried by a judge as opposed to a panel of jurors.

In addition to determining guilt, the judge would assign a sentence if the defendant is convicted.

Beason’s attorney, public defender David Stewart, said the motion was filed at the defendant’s request and he would support the decision.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office did not object to the motion.

Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard repeatedly asked Beason if he was certain and had enough time to consider the pros and cons of his request.

According to Howard, a bench trial is requested in less than 1 percent of criminal cases.

Among the disadvantages of a bench trial is that a judge knows certain aspects regarding a case a juror would not, Howard said, such as details of a defendant’s criminal history and motions filed prior to trial.

Beason’s previous felony record is something Howard would note if the defendant was found guilty and sentenced, he said.

A bench trial also cuts out voir dire, the judge said, a judicial process that allows the defendant to learn some background information about potential jurors and participate in jury selection.

“A lot of folks would think that’s a disadvantage,” Howard said.

The judge told Beason he is the father of three children and spent more than 20 years prosecuting before again asking if the defendant was certain he wanted a trial by court. Beason said his mind was not changed.

Howard ultimately decided to rule on the matter Friday during a hearing, which he said would give Beason a few more days to contemplate further.

“Don’t quit thinking about this,” Howard said. “On Friday, I will let you take it back. There’s no penalty for that.”

He added, “It’s your case. It’s not my case. It’s not Mr. Stewart’s case.”

Beason was arrested Oct. 19, 2011, after Elizabethtown police said he had sexual intercourse with a female relative who was younger than 16 at the time. Forcible contact is not alleged.

He is lodged at Hardin County Detention Center in lieu of a $250,000 cash bond.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.