HANCOCK COUNTY — Justin McCaw sat at the defense table motionless in Hancock County Circuit Court Thursday, March 17. He was listening intently as Judge Scott Sirk read aloud three separate guilty verdicts in his attempted child seduction trial.
McCaw, 45, New Palestine, was a former New Palestine High School instructional assistant who lost his job at the school immediately after a student reported he made inappropriate advances towards her in 2019. McCaw had been a full-time instructional aide at the high school since April 2017.
He was found guilty by a county jury of a Level 5 felony charge of attempt to commit child seduction, a Level 6 felony charge of stalking and a Level 6 felony charge of official misconduct. The most serious charge against him calls for a maximum of 6 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
The victim in the case and her mother also set silently in the audience as the verdicts were announced by Sirk following a four-hour deliberation by the jury, which had listened to the three-day trial.
Prior to the verdicts being read, Sirk told the courtroom any outburst presented after the verdicts were announced would result in contempt charges. After the jury left the courtroom, Sirk ordered McCaw taken directly into custody at the suggestion of deputy prosecutors Kyle Lawver-Jones and Gabriel Brown, who represented the state in the case.
Brown said he and Lawver-Jones were pleased with the outcome of the case and thanked the jury for their service and their partners in law enforcement including officials from the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and, in particular, New Palestine Police Department Sgt. Jessy Walley.
“Sgt. Walley was instrumental in helping us prove this case,” Brown said. “He worked diligently for us right up to and through the trial.”
Officials from the Sheriff’s Department offered to provide McCaw wheelchair assistant to get him from the courthouse to the jail after he began to hyperventilate and nearly passed out at the defense table when the realization of the guilty verdict hit him. McCaw’s wife, who had testified on his behalf during the trial, and other family members watched and cried as they were seated about 20 feet away from McCaw.
The female student who had accused McCaw testified earlier in the week that she told a school resource officer that McCaw asked her to have sex with him at his house one day after school in February of 2019. The state presented video evidence showing McCaw’s encounters with the student on the day she had accused him, including an encounter in the parking lot when he drove his truck up to her car and approached her as she was preparing to leave the school’s parking lot.
The victim told the jury that McCaw told her that day that it would be a good time for her to come over to his house because his wife and family were out of town. The state also provided evidence on McCaw’s phone that he had searched for the girl’s address on his cell phone.
McCaw was represented by James D. Crum, Carmel. Crum called both McCaw and McCaw’s wife to the stand during the trial. McCaw’s wife told the jury she was going to be home the day McCaw was accused of asking the teenage girl to come to his house for sex and that her parents lived right next door to them and often stopped by.
McCaw, who maintained his innocence from the start, took the stand in his own defense during day two of the trial and said he had no idea how the girl’s address had gotten on his phone, but then suggested someone in the classroom could have done it when he had left his phone unattended.
During his closing statement, Lawver-Jones implored the jury to use common sense when deciding the case and asked the jury to weigh all the evidence presented by both sides. He left the jury with the thought that while McCaw’s wife testified in favor of her husband’s honesty and respect for the law, she was on his side and wanted him to be cleared of the charges.
The jury sided with the state and found McCaw guilty on all counts. McCaw is slated to be sentenced by Sirk on April 14 in Circuit Court.