Child molestation case in jury's hands

LAWRENCEVILLE — According to his defense attorney, Buford security guard Jason Pressley was driving around a tony subdivision off Thompson Mill Road on Aug. 22, 2008, innocently gazing starry-eyed at half-million dollar homes. His salary, merged with his wife’s pay at a Sonic drive-in, couldn’t begin to pay those kind of mortgages.

It was Pressley’s sense of “American exceptionalism” — the notion that anyone can attain anything, via diligence and elbow grease — that had led him into the Duncan’s Lake enclave, and landed him in the pickle of a lifetime, his attorney asserts.

“Don’t convict the man because he’s driving around looking at nice houses,” attorney Wesley Person told jurors during closing arguments in Pressley’s child molestation trial Thursday. “Don’t convict him because he drives a junky car. That’s what we have here.”

It was merely bad luck, Person said, that one day earlier, a man in a clunker blue car like Pressley’s drove up to a 10-year-old girl in her cul-de-sac, pants and underwear around his knees, hand on his genitals, and asked where “Jack lives,” a lewd reference to masturbation.

To the contrary, prosecutors say the victim ­— now 13 — described Pressley’s car down to the baby seat in back, and painted an accurate portrait of a man with orange hair, chubby face and molasses-thick Southern drawl. What’s more, the girl missed her first days of eighth grade this week to confidently point out Pressley from the witness stand as the man who’d approached her.

“This case isn’t about rich versus poor,” said Assistant District Attorney LeAnne Chancey. “It’s about good versus evil.”

Deliberations in the two-day trial began Thursday afternoon. Pressley has been free on bond since a few days after his Aug. 28, 2008, arrest. If convicted, he faces between five and 20 years in prison.

While no child was physically harmed, Chancey said the case is textbook child molestation according to Georgia code, in that an immoral and indecent act was committed in the presence of a child.

The alleged victim, Chancey noted for jurors, had nothing to gain by coming forward with damning accusations against a stranger.

The day after the girl was approached, with neighbors on high alert, she pointed out Pressley’s 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.

Person concedes that his client was in the neighborhood sight-seeing that day, which he told police all along. Pressley worked up the road and had just gotten off work. Friends of Pressley testified they’d seen him the prior afternoon, about the time the girl was victimized.

Chancey painted Pressley’s friends’ testimony as a concocted alibi and a blatant stab at gaming the system.

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.