Judge: Local man abused teen

Defendant found guilty of 3 felonies following single-day bench trial

GREENFIELD — A local man accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a teen girl is guilty of three sexual-assault-related charges, a judge ruled this week.

Interim Hancock Circuit Court judge Jeffery Eggers found 31-year-old Paul Price guilty of three felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, officials said.

But Price is not guilty of felony criminal confinement and sexual battery, charges he also faced, the judge decided following a brief trial.

The man will appear in court for sentencing next month. Two of the counts he was found guilty of are Level 4 felonies, each carrying a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison; the third count is a Level 5 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of six years.

Eggers’ decision comes days after Price appeared in Hancock Circuit Court for a single-day bench trial — meaning attorneys argued only before the judge, not a jury — during which Price and the young victim testified.

The victim described several instances when Price gave her alcohol before touching or engaging in sex acts with her. She admitted she felt the relationship was consensual when it began; but her feelings about Price eventually changed.

The girl testified that at the end of the relationship, Price held her down against her will and fondled her, according to testimony.

The girl’s relatives also took the witness stand to discuss Price’s relationship with the teen and their family, telling the judge they believe the teen’s story is true.

But Price repeatedly denied the allegations, telling the judge he believes the girl is lying to hurt him.

Price told the judge he always had a bad relationship with the girl’s family, and he believes the allegations were fabrications stemming from the bad feelings. From the witness stand, he accused the girl’s father of threatening him with a gun after the accusations came to light.

The state’s case was presented by Deputy Prosecutor Cathy Wilson, who handles all cases in which sexual abuse has been alleged.

Price was represented by John Merlau of New Palestine.

Price is scheduled to return to court at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 7. He is not currently in police custody.

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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.