Attorney sentenced in sexual battery case involving a minor
Attorney Anthony Wallingford drew the ire of Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger Davis recently, leaving Davis no option but to throw out a negotiated plea deal and have lawyers on both sides of the case agree to a new plea deal or the case would be sent to a jury trial.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 24, Wallingford, 39, was set to plead guilty to sexual battery in exchange for a lighter sentence in a 2007 case in which he allegedly attacked a 16-year-old Elizabeth girl. But statements he made to Harrison County Chief Adult Probation Officer Diane Harrison in a pre-sentence investigation Aug. 22 contradicted statements he had made under oath in court on Aug. 8.
According to a document Davis read in court ‘ and the focus of Davis’ displeasure ‘ when Harrison asked Wallingford if he committed the crime, Wallingford said, ‘I’m taking responsibility, but I’m not really guilty.’ Wallingford also allegedly told Harrison, ‘I’m so sorry it all happened, but it ruined my life and my wife’s life more than it ruined (the victim’s life).’
In court on Sept. 24, Wallingford attempted to clarify what he told Harrison, saying he was not guilty of the Class B felony criminal deviate conduct charge, which was dismissed as part of the original agreement.
‘I want everybody to know I did what I said I did. There’s nobody to blame but me,’ Wallingford said, his voice sometimes quivering. ‘When I read what I’d said to Diane … I’m astonished at how poorly I communicate about me. My job is to communicate, and I do it very well for other people. I never intended to say I didn’t do anything.’
Harrison and special prosecutor David Powell both believed the original agreement should have been accepted; however, Davis wasn’t convinced with Wallingford’s testimony.
‘I’m not buying it. He can try to sell it somewhere else,’ Davis said. ‘This is not waffling or equivocating. It’s outright, ‘I didn’t do it’. ‘
In August, while on the stand, the attorney, who has offices in Marengo and New Albany, admitted to being at the victim’s house and drinking with her father and another friend, climbing into the victim’s bed, lifting her shirt and touching her breasts with his hand and mouth on April 14, 2007.
The victim was taken to the hospital for a sexual-assault examination after the incident, and biological material with Wallingford’s DNA was found inside the girl’s bra.
Davis accused Wallingford of ‘playing games’ and ‘trying to manipulate the legal system,’ and said he could not accept the first plea agreement unless Wallingford admitted ‘ unequivocally ‘ to the facts of the crime and took responsibility for his actions.
‘Your behavior shows a degree of arrogance and offensiveness, Mr. Wallingford,’ Davis said.
In the original plea agreement filed Aug. 8, Wallingford would have pleaded guilty to the same Class D felony sexual battery charge but could not have been sentenced to more than 120 days in jail.
After Davis threw out that plea agreement, Wallingford and his attorney, James Voyles, met for about an hour with Special Prosecutor Powell to produce a new agreement that Wallingford was given time to go home and discuss with his wife. Attorneys agreed to reconvene at 7:30 p.m., and Davis’ sentencing was handed down 90 minutes later on the charge of sexual battery: a three-year jail term imposed, with two years suspended, leaving Wallingford one year to serve. The charge of Class B felony criminal deviate conduct was dismissed.
With good behavior credit, Wallingford will serve six months. Upon his release, he’ll have to register as a sex offender, and he’ll be on two years probation. Wallingford cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or within one mile of the victim, and he’ll be required to allow monitoring of his computers.
With the felony conviction, Wallingford stands to possibly lose his right to practice law ‘ either by suspension, or by revocation of his license ‘ as set forth by a rule by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Wallingford is to report to the Harrison County Jail by 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 to begin serving his sentence. Davis gave Wallingford a 30-day stay of execution to give or find his clients proper representation. Wallingford has the option to appeal the sentence but not the conviction.
Powell, the victim and the victim’s family agreed with the judge’s sentence, which went from a four-month maximum jail time to the maximum sentence allowed.
‘He got what he deserved,’ said the victim, now 18 and a freshman in college. ‘I’m glad this is over with and now I’m ready to get on with the rest of my life and put this in my past. I kept praying and praying, and God knew (Wallingford) was going to get a worse sentence, and I think that’s why I was so calm.’
Powell said even if the matter had gone to trial, the prosecution was ready.
‘That DNA on the inside of the bra was our hammer. The family didn’t want the publicity of a trial, but we would have gone that route if necessary,’ he said. ‘The sad thing about it all is that there are lots of victims here besides her.’