Updated Mon, Feb 11, 2013 4:17 pm
The Glouster man accused of sexually assaulting five young girls may not have the chance to face his accusers in court.
Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Rob Driscoll moved Monday in Athens County Common Pleas Court to have the juvenile victims give their testimonies via closed-circuit televison rather than confront Thomas Shifflet, 75, face-to-face in the courtroom.
Shifflet is charged with three counts of gross sexual imposition, one count of rape and one count of sexual imposition.
A licensed social worker, who worked with one of the victims, testified that based on her judgment, the child would be emotionally unable to testify in front of the defendant.
The prosecution also called upon psychologist Mackenzie Peterson as an expert witness.
Peterson has worked with all five victims and their families.
Peterson said it is her expert opinion that they would all experience severe psychological trauma if they had to physically testify in front of Shifflet.
Peterson testified one of the victims "showed significant signs of anxiety and trauma" even when the topic of the abuse was merely brought up.
Defense attorney John Lavelle argued that in order to give Shifflet a fair trial, he should have the right to confront his accusers face-to-face.
He also expressed concern that the setup of the televised testimonies would be "awkward and cumbersome."
Judge Michael Ward said that the court will reserve ruling on this argument.
The defense also moved to relieve the case from prejudicial joinder.
If their motion is granted, the charges against Shifflet will be split up into separate trials.
Lavelle says he fears that there could possibly be a risk of confusing the jury if the charges are all presented together.
Ward did not immediately rule on either motion.