Jury exonerates man on two counts of child molestation; hung on other three counts

PORT ANGELES — David Randall Chesser has been exonerated of two counts of child molestation while a jury could not decide on other counts.

A Clallam County jury announced Tuesday it was deadlocked on whether the 49-year-old Port Angeles man was guilty or not guilty on three other counts of the same crime.

1 day of deliberations

The 11-woman, one-man jury announced its verdict at 11 a.m. Tuesday after one day of deliberations.

Chesser was found not guilty on two counts of first-degree child molestation for alleged crimes between January 2008 and December 2010.

The jury was hung on three other counts: first-degree child molestation, first-degree child molestation and in the alternative, second-degree child molestation and second-degree child molestation with domestic violence.

All five charges against Chesser carried the special allegation that he abused a position of trust to commit the alleged offenses. Investigators said the crimes occurred in Chesser’s home between 2007 and 2015.

“Upon further deliberation we were able to reach a unanimous verdict on counts 1 and 2,” presiding juror JoAnne Yerkes wrote to Clallam County Superior Court Judge Erik Rohrer on Tuesday.

“We took votes on counts 3, 4 and 5 but were unable to reach a unanimous verdict based on the evidence and testimony presented to us.”

Yerkes reported Monday that the jury had “come no closer than a 6-6 vote,” court papers said.

Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin will decide whether or not to pursue a new trial on counts 3, 4 and 5.

Next move unknown

Devlin would not discuss her next move Tuesday.

“The case is still open,” Devlin said.

“I can’t discuss anything at this point.”

Defense attorney Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender said he was pleased with a portion of the verdict.

“I’m happy with two-fifths of it,” Gasnick said.

Gasnick would not speculate on what convinced the jury to exonerate his client on counts 1 and 2.

“Lawyers like to think that they’re the key to it,” Gasnick said in a Tuesday interview at the Clallam County Courthouse.

“Certainly we play a significant role, but it’s really about what the evidence is.

“All I know is you go in, you do your best, and hope that things shake out the right way,” Gasnick added.

The state had the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chesser was guilty of child molestation.

A review hearing is set for May 3.

In closing arguments Monday, Devlin argued that Chesser’s testimony from Thursday corroborated statements made by one of three girls who told authorities that he victimized them more than a dozen times.

The girls said they were 5, 6 and 12 years old when Chesser first abused them.

Chesser was exonerated of molesting one of the three girls between January 2008 and December 2010.

The remaining counts against Chesser are for alleged crimes he committed between July 2007 and July 2015, court papers said.

The charges stemmed from a Nov. 8, 2016 report from a North Olympic Peninsula high school staffer that a female student reported being molested by Chesser.

Probable causes

That same day, another girl who was younger than the student told the student that Chesser had molested her, too, according to the affidavit for probable cause.

The student who initially reported the abuse confronted Chesser in a 22-minute phone conversation recorded by the Clallam County sheriff’s investigators.

Chesser posted a $100,000 bail bond in January 2017 and has remained out of custody.

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Senior staff writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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