Verdict expected Wednesday in Hemmelgarn bench trial

GREENVILLE – Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan P. Hein will announce his verdict Wednesday morning in the State vs. Eric Hemmelgarn bench trial.

Hemmelgarn, 38, of Greenville, was charged with one count of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles and one count of gross sexual imposition.

The victim, who was 12 when the alleged incidents occurred in September 2017, is a family member of Hemmelgarn’s.

Darke County Assistant Prosecutor Deborah Quigley called the victim and Greenville Police Detective Jason Marion as witnesses during the Tuesday trial.

Testifying for the defense was another male family member, who with his wife currently has custody of the victim. Hemmelgarn’s defense attorney is Paul Wagner.

The victim described in detail what allegedly took place around 9 or 10 p.m. Sept. 8, which included Hemmelgarn showing the victim a pornographic video on his phone while the two were sitting on a couch in his living room. A one-year-old child, she said, was asleep on the floor next to the couch. Stating the name of the video, the victim said it depicted an adult male assaulting a young girl in a bathroom – insinuating the two were related to each other.

The victim also testified Hemmelgarn assaulted her manually while the video was being played on his cell phone. The assault, she said, stopped when a four-year-old child came into the living room, at which point the victim said she took the child back to its bedroom, then “ran next door” to tell neighbors what had just taken place.

The neighbor reported the incident to police about a week later.

Marion’s testimony centered on the Greenville Police Department’s interrogation of Hemmelgarn and the collection of evidence from the cell phone, using Cellebrite, a program used by law enforcement to extract information and generate a report of files found on phones or computers.

During four excerpts of the police department’s interrogation of Hemmelgarn played in court by Quigley, Hemmelgarn denies any wrongdoing until questioning leads to him admitting to using crack cocaine and not being able to recall what he does while under the influence of the drug. Hemmelgarn states the possibility of others “walking by” and seeing porn on his phone, admitting that while using crack cocaine he does view “adult porn” and may have clicked on a link advertising teen or child porn.

According to Quigley, the video named by the victim was found to have been downloaded onto his cell phone, although according to Marion, Hemmelgarn attempted to delete a number of files before handing the cell over to police on Sept. 13.

Wagner’s witness for the defense testified he had known the victim for quite some time and that she had lived with his family prior to this incident, when she was around 5 or 6 years old.

Wagner’s questioning of his witness centered on catching the teen victim in a lie, insinuating she may be lying about both the video and the inappropriate touching she said took place last September, as well as the exact date the incident took place.

During closing statements, Quigley told Hein she believed the state “believes testimony has shown” the defendant did recklessly disseminate material harmful to a juvenile. Quigley also stated she believes the “defendant did engage in sexual conduct” with a child under the age of 13.

“It’s quite clear,” Quigley said, “on Sept. 8, 2017, the defendant showed (the victim) a pornographic video.”

The defendant, she said “used it (video) as a grooming tool.”

Wagner’s closing statement included calling some of the police department’s interrogation of Hemmelgarn last September “convoluted. He denied it right to the very end. This really boils down to ‘do you believe (the victim’s) testimony? Does she know what the truth is? Is she telling the truth?’”

Wagner also told Hein there was “no evidence to corroborate what happened” and he believed there were “inconsistencies” in her statements, referring to the victim being unclear about the exact date of the incident.

PHOTO CAPTION: Eric Hemmelgarn with defense attorney Paul Wagner during Tuesday’s bench trial in Darke County Common Pleas Court. (Susan Hartley photo)


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