A 75-year old man who pled guilty to touching a 16-year old girl’s breast was sentenced to jail and house arrest last Tuesday in Jackson Superior Court.
Melvin Ray Owen of Uniontown was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 90 days on home incarceration. He was fined $1,000 for the incident which occurred Nov. 1, 2008.
Owen was a spokesman for the Jackson County Watchdogs, a group protesting the Lions Den, an adult book and novelty store in Uniontown.
Owen was accused of touching the 16-year-old girl inappropriately as the two rode in Owen’s truck. The girl allegedly was sitting next to Owen and steering the truck and as Owen shifted gears his hands touched the girl’s breast on multiple occasions.
Rev, William Ramsey, a retired former pastor at Uniontown Baptist Church, and Rev. Roger Smith, pastor of Norman Community Church and a former pastor at Uniontown Baptist, offered testimony on Owen’s behalf.
Both characterized Owen as a good man who made a mistake in judgment.
Ramsey testified he told Owen “Ray, you just broke some good rules. She was a teenager and you were the adult.”
Smith, who was serving as interim pastor when the incident occurred last year said Owen was a very gregarious person. He’s “touchy-feely. He hugs everybody in church. It is out of character for him be anything but someone who wants to do good,” said Smith.
The victim and her mother testified concerning changes in behavior the victim has experienced since last November. Both said the now 17-year-old is in therapy and has been prescribed anti-depressants.
When he took the witness stand, Owen admitted to touching the girl on more than one occasion.
“I am not pointing fingers at nobody,” Owen said. “I touched her breast, I did. I also blowed on her hair and punched her ribs. It wasn’t an accident and I’ll tell you why. I touched her to try to get her off my lap and she wouldn’t get off it.”
Owen told the court that earlier in the day as he and the girl were at a horse farm in Jennings County, “Twice at the farm the girl propositioned me and I turned her down. She is not a girl that likes to be told ‘no’.”
Owen expressed remorse over the incident and said, “I will never, ever be alone with a young person again without someone else with me because I never want this to happen again.”
Owen, who was charged with simple battery, a misdemeanor, changed his plea to guilty on Sept. 16.
In seeking probation for his client, Owen’s attorney Brett Hays, said, “The victim and the defendant have obviously suffered because of this incident. He had a lapse in judgment; his reputation has been destroyed. He has been the subject of articles in the newspaper, the subject of public ridicule; my client has learned his lesson,” said Hays.
Deputy prosecutor Herbert ‘Pete’ Walker told the court that Owen’s actions resulted “in significant harm to the victim. He has not truly been remorseful and has given excuses for his actions.”
In pronouncing the sentence. Jackson Superior Court Judge Bruce Markel told Owen “You have violated a trust.”
Owen was sentenced to the maximum 180 days with 90 days suspended. With good behavior he could spend 45 days in jail (scheduled release would be Dec. 17). The judge then placed Owen on 90 days home incarceration supervised by Community Corrections after serving the time in jail.