Judge weighs trial move request

GREENFIELD — A registered sex offender accused of fondling a young boy in a restroom at the Greenfield Walmart will have to wait a little longer for a judge’s ruling on whether to move his upcoming trial out of the county.

Attorneys for David A. Paterson, 27, of Indianapolis, cited prejudicial area media coverage when filing a motion in August asking that the location of Paterson’s trial be changed. At a hearing on the request Tuesday, Hancock Superior Court 1 Judge Terry Snow made no decision and kept Paterson’s trial date for Oct. 19.

Paterson faces a Level 4 felony charge of child molest amid allegations from a 7-year-old boy who told police a man he didn’t know touched him inappropriately in the men’s restroom at Walmart in Greenfield, according to court documents.

The arrest received immediate media attention in Indiana and a segment on the CNN Headline News program “Nancy Grace,” which aired nationally. Many news outlets called Paterson a convicted sex offender based on a 2009 incident in which Paterson pleaded guilty to child molestation. Paterson’s attorney argued those characterizations could unfairly sway a jury.

According to court records, Paterson has been registered as a sex offender since March 2010.

Bradley Keffer of Indianapolis, Paterson’s attorney, told Snow it was reasonable to assume Hancock County residents read about or watched coverage of Paterson’s arrest and formed opinions based on those stories.

Keffer provided Snow with four examples of media coverage, including a transcript of the “Nancy Grace” episode, which featured an interview with a Greenfield Police Department detective, and two websites where his client’s picture was displayed, MugWatcher .com and YouTube.com.

During the hearing Tuesday, Keffer argued it was inappropriate for police to give interviews before the case had been settled, saying it gave the impression investigators “sought out” the media.

Hancock County Prosecutor Brent Eaton countered it was wrong to speculate about residents’ opinions and whether the media attention has swayed their impression of Paterson. Eaton said those determinations can be made only while questioning potential jurors during jury selection.

Snow listened to both sides but made no decision regarding the request, saying instead he would take the issue under advisement.

Paterson was arrested in March after a boy told his mother and police that a man climbed into the stall he was using while they were alone in the restroom, court documents state.

Security camera footage from inside Walmart shows a man with short blonde hair and glasses entering the restroom before the boy and leaving the store immediately after the incident, investigators said.

Police used Paterson’s sex offender profile to match him to the man seen in security footage, court documents state.

The Level 4 felony charge Paterson faces carries a penalty of two to 12 years and up to $10,000 in fines.

Snow did not say when he would rule on the change of venue request.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.