GREENVILLE — The fate of a Greenville man indicted on charges of committing felony acts with a minor lies in the hands of Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan P. Hein.
Eric J. Hemmelgarn, 38, is accused of gross sexual imposition with a person under the age of 13, a third-degree felony, and disseminating matter harmful to a juvenile, a fourth-degree felony. He appeared before Judge Hein in a bench trial Tuesday.
Hemmelgarn was represented in court by defense attorney Paul Wagner. Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Quigley represented the state.
Two witnesses testified for the state: a juvenile family member of the accused and Detective Jason Marion of the Greenville Police Department.
The juvenile testified the accused showed her a pornographic video on his phone then attempted to put his hand down into her underwear. She said she fled to a neighbor’s home. The incident reportedly occurred Sept. 8, 2017. The neighbor called police a few days later on Sept. 12.
Detective Marion testified forensic investigation of Hemmelgarn’s phone showed evidence of pornographic videos as well as web searches for related subject matter. In a video showing the accused being interviewed by officers, Hemmelgarn repeatedly denies harming the minor, although he admitted he has a crack cocaine habit, which may have impaired his judgment, and also admitted to viewing pornography on his phone.
Wagner questioned Marion’s qualifications and sought to counter the state’s evidence as it pertained to the data gleaned from the phone. He also raised questions regarding the trustworthiness of the juvenile victim. The girl’s current guardian, the sole witness called by the defense, told the court the juvenile changed her story at times regarding the incident and pointed to another example where she had lied to him.
In his closing statement, Wagner said his client adamantly denied the charges throughout when questioned by law enforcement.
“He denied this thing right to the very end. He never made admission. This really boils down to, do you believe the [juvenile’s] testimony?” he said.
Quigley said the testimony and the evidence presented by the prosecution was “quite clear” that Hemmelgarn committed the acts.
Hemmelgarn did not testify on his own behalf.
Judge Hein will announce his verdict Wednesday morning. If found guilty, Hemmelgarn faces up to five years in prison on the charge of gross sexual imposition and up to 18 months for the dissemination charge, not including potential fines.