Originally created 07/10/01

Man faces third trial in child molestation



Nearly six years and two trials later, an Augusta man once again faces a jury that must determine whether he had sexual contact with a little girl in the spring of 1995.

Jon M. Putnam, 53, has maintained his innocence since his arrest on charges of child molestation. His third trial on the charges began Monday in Richmond County Superior Court.

The prosecutor, who outlined her case for the jury Monday, said it's a simple case. She alleges Mr. Putnam stole a child's innocence when he began molesting her a month before her ninth birthday, in April 1995.

The girl didn't tell her mother until July 1995. The mother believed the state would take her children if she reported the abuse to the police or to the Department of Family and Children Services, Assistant District Attorney Patricia Johnson told the jury.

It wasn't until September 1995, when the mother confided in a friend, that the allegation was reported to authorities.

Defense attorney Peter Johnson asked the jury to consider the timing. The girl's mother said nothing until after Mr. Putnam confronted her about the possible embezzlement of $25,000 from his business, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Putnam is facing his third trial on the charges. In October 1996, a Richmond County Superior Court jury convicted him. Chief Judge William M. Fleming Jr. sentenced Mr. Putnam to 12 years in prison.

Two years later, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that conviction, ruling that Mr. Putnam had been unfairly convicted when certain testimony and evidence was improperly given to the jury.

A retrial began Nov. 17, 1998, but Senior Judge Franklin H. Pierce declared a mistrial over the objections of both the prosecution and defense attorney. Judge Pierce cited a newspaper article as justification for aborting the trial.

Mr. Putnam has been in prison since October 1996.

The alleged victim, now 15 years old, is expected to testify this morning. It will be third time she has had tell a roomful of strangers about what she said happened to her at the ages of 8 and 9.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.