A Columbia County jury on Thursday found former Columbia County commissioner Scott Dean guilty of molesting his adopted teen daughter.
The jury started deliberations late Wednesday afternoon and spent about seven hours discussing the case before rendering the verdict against Dean, also a former mayor of Harlem.
After the court clerk read the verdict, Dean hung his head but remained calm as deputies led him away to Columbia County Detention Center. The courtroom was silent except for the soft sobs of Dean’s wife, Renee, and eldest daughter, Marlin, hugging each other in the front row. Dean’s mother, Rikki Dean put her hand over her mouth.
Dean, 42, was charged with two counts of child molestation. He was accused of exposing himself to and inappropriately touching another daughter, one of five the Deans adopted from Guatemala in 2008.
Child molestation carries a 5-to-20-year sentence, Assistant District Attorney Parks White said. Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. did not immediately sentence Dean. By request of Dean’s attorney, he will be sentenced at a later date, which was not set Thursday.
The verdict stunned some who knew Dean well.
“I’m honestly shocked,” said Harlem City Councilman John Thigpen, who served with Dean when he was mayor. “I’ve known Scott a while and I’m finding the whole thing hard to believe.”
Thigpen said he tried to offer Dean encouragement when the two spoke Wednesday evening.
“I talked to him (Wednesday) night and he was calm,” Thigpen said Thursday, “but I could tell he was in a nervous state and naturally worried. I told him to keep his head up.”
The four-day trial featured Dean disputing charges from his daughter, now 17, that he crawled into her bed at night and touched her. She also said that Dean exposed himself to her by opening a towel he was wearing and said he wanted to have sex.
Defense attorney Pete Theodocion said during the trial that the girl made up the allegations because she was angry that Marlin left her behind when her sister ran away to Mexico in October 2010 and that there was tension with Dean’s wife.
Several people testified that the victim and another sister met with Dean’s wife and a family friend and said they lied about the allegations. But during her testimony, the victim stood by her story.
Marlin insinuated to Columbia County sheriff’s investigators that Dean tried to have sex with her but later recanted, saying she lied to make people feel sorry for her and send her money.
That there seemed to be some story changes by the girls made some residents question the verdict.
“I didn’t feel like it was compelling evidence,” said longtime Harlem resident Jack Hatcher. “The girls changed their stories. They first said they lied about it.”
Dean, a Harlem High School graduate, served on the Harlem City Council and more than five years as the city’s mayor before being elected to the county commission in July 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Lee Anderson.
Dean was re-elected as the District 4 commissioner in November 2010 despite being accused several months earlier of sending inappropriate text messages to a married county employee.
He resigned from the position in February, when he was indicted on the child molestation charges.
Bill Morris replaced Dean as the District 4 Columbia County commissioner in a special election. He didn’t offer an opinion on the outcome of the trial.
“I’m just glad that it’s over,” Morris said. “It’s been a fast ordeal. I just want us to move forward.”