Testimony opens in child molestation trial

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE ­— The trial for a man accused of exposing himself in an upscale Buford subdivision three years ago hinges on the recollections of a 10-year-old girl.

Testimony opened Tuesday in the child molestation trial of Jason Pressley, 31, a Buford security guard and Army Reserves member when he was arrested in August 2008. He faces five to 20 years in prison, if convicted, prosecutors said.

The alleged victim, now 13, told police a man fitting Pressley’s description — round face, short orange hair, a thick Southern twang — drove up to her in the Duncan’s Lake subdivision, fondling himself with his pants around his ankles. The Ivy Creek Elementary School student had just stepped off her bus the afternoon of Aug. 21 and ran to tell adults.

“She could see clearly in the car,” Assistant District Attorney LeAnne Chancey told jurors during opening statements. “She got a very good look in the car.”

The following day, with neighbors on high alert, the girl pointed out Pressley’s clunker 1996 Chevrolet Lumina, and parents jotted down the tag number. That information led police to Pressley’s house in Jackson County, and ultimately to his arrest.

Not so fast, Pressley’s defense attorney, Wesley Person, told jurors. Person said his client told police he was driving around the Buford neighborhood, simply looking at homes for sale after his shift had ended down the road in Buford. His felony child molestation charges were born of mistaken identity, Person said.

“Do not get drawn in and make up your minds simply because of the nature of this case,” Person told jurors.

The trial’s first witness, a neighbor whose children share a bus stop with the alleged victim, lent credence to the girl’s recollections in saying a car like Pressley’s stood out in the neighborhood and would be hard to forget. Homes there fetch between $300,000 and $600,000, Person said.

Pressley, donning a smoke-gray blazer, khakis and short auburn hair, has been free on bond since a few days after his Aug. 28, 2008, arrest.

In an earlier hearing, Pressley’s supervisor in the Army Reserves testified that he is an exemplary soldier and husband incapable of harming children. The mayor of the Jackson County city of Nicholson, where Pressley lived upon his arrest, submitted a letter in that hearing attesting to his solid character.