|A Cherokee County church
deacon was convicted Saturday of molesting a 14-year-old girl who
attended his church. |
Jurors deliberated about 14 hours
Friday and Saturday before finding John M. Eatman guilty of child
molestation and enticing a minor for indecent purposes. He is to be
sentenced in several weeks.
Prosecutors said he showed the
girl an adult magazine and made sexually explicit comments to her in
August, then touched her buttocks during Sunday morning services
Sept. 27 at South Cherokee Baptist Church.
Eatman, who is in
his early 50s, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to a child
molestation charge in 1984 involving a 10-year-old girl. He spent
several years in prison and was on probation at the time of his
Kevin J. Rodgers, Eatman's attorney, said he expects
prosecutors to ask a judge to sentence Eatman to life in prison.
State law allows life imprisonment for someone convicted a second
time of child molestation.
Members of Eatman's church,
numbering 100 to 120, supported him after his arrest. His pastor and other members waited for the verdict
well into the night Friday. Some supporters cried when the verdict
was announced Saturday morning.
Investigators said he showed
the girl an adult magazine and asked her a sexually explicit
question as he drove her to services Aug. 19. She did not look at
the magazine or answer the question.
On Sept. 27, the girl
told investigators that Eatman "had touched her on her right buttock
and squeezed her buttock at the same time" during services earlier
that day, court records say. A search warrant for Eatman's house and
car shows that detectives seized more than 40 sexually explicit
magazines, 11 pistols, rifles and shotguns and four sexual aids.
It is against the law for convicted felons to have firearms.
Eatman was charged with 11 felonies for having the guns, but his
wife, Gina, testified that the guns belonged to her, Rodgers said.
The jury acquitted Eatman of those charges. It also acquitted him of
one count of cruelty to children.
Rodgers, who argued during
the trial that Eatman's contact with the girl was misinterpreted,
said Eatman's family is considering an appeal.