Jury finds Chester man guilty of sex assault
BRENTWOOD — A jury swiftly convicted Gary Britton on Tuesday of sexually assaulting a young girl for four years, beginning in March 1991 when she was 9 years old.
The verdict came just before 4:30 p.m. in Rockingham County Superior Court, rejecting testimony by Britton, 60, that he never touched the girl.
The one-day trial centered on the testimony of the victim, now 30, who told jurors that for nearly two decades she kept silent about being sexually assaulted until Chester police arrived on her doorstep in 2011.
An instant messenger chat on Britton’s home computer in September 2011 in which he described the sexual assaults set off a police investigation.
Britton had already been arrested for failing to register as a sex offender, but a search of his computer led police to charge him with sexual assault and for being in possession of child sexual abuse images.
His trial in the child pornography case begins June 3.
The victim testified that the assaults happened frequently, at least one or two times a week, beginning in March 1991 when she was 9 years old.
It continued for the next four years whenever she was alone with Britton, who once threatened to kill her, and on another occasion struck her with a phone book, according to her testimony.
“I didn’t always cry. It happened often. I don’t know if I shut down or what,” the woman testified on Tuesday about the assaults.
Britton testified as the sole defense witness, denying he committed any wrongdoing.
But prosecutors played recorded phone calls Britton made from the Rockingham County jail, including one to his brother. During that call, Britton admitted that something happened with the girl, and that the FBI learned of it while searching his computer.
In another phone call from jail, Britton asked his daughter to speak to the victim and find out what she told Chester police. She refused.
“Tell her to change her story,” Britton said during the phone call.
“No, Dad. It’s what happened,” his daughter replied.
The jury of eight men and four women began deliberating shortly after 3 p.m.
“This isn’t about guilt and innocence for him. It’s about survival,” Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton told the jury during closing arguments.
Britton, who pleaded guilty in another sexual assault case in 1983, could spend the rest of his life in prison because of Tuesday’s conviction.
The defense suggested that the girl’s testimony couldn’t be trusted, or meet the state’s burden of proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
“This case is (based on) a memory from childhood,” Public Defender Julia Nye said. “Think of how we exaggerate, fill in the gaps of memory.”
Britton was arrested by Chester police on Sept. 21, 2011, for failing to register as a sex offender, and has remained in county jail awaiting trial in his separate cases.
His eviction from his apartment on the same day caused his landlord to turn on his computer, and then call police once he stumbled upon a collection of child pornography, according to court testimony.
On Tuesday, Britton was convicted of two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault.
Britton is also facing a charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun, which was found while police executed a search warrant at his apartment.
Judge N. William Delker revoked Britton’s bail on Tuesday and said a sentencing hearing would be set once the two remaining cases were resolved.