A Dawsonville teenager indicted earlier this year for alleged sex crimes has been acquitted of all charges.
In the written verdict presented to Judge Andrew Fuller on Oct. 23, the jury said there was "insufficient evidence" to convict Michael Dwight Gilbert, 18, on two counts each of child molestation and aggravated child molestation.
According to the July 27 indictment, Gilbert was accused of molesting a young family member between May 2010 and July 2012. The prosecution could not list exact dates in the indictment "as the crime occurred repeatedly during the period of time alleged and due to the tender age of the victim."
Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said "child molestation cases are always difficult to prosecute because seldom do the perpetrators admit, seldom do they video themselves do it and seldom is there further corroboration beyond the victim's testimony."
In those cases, he said, a child is dependent upon a jury believing his or her account of what happened.
"While my office remains confident in the testimony of the victim, the jury in this case decided to set the [suspect] free and their decision is, unfortunately in this case, final," Darragh said. "We will continue as in the past to protect victims and present their cases with hopes of just results in the future."
The jury also informed Fuller of their "grave concerns for the welfare" of the child and recommended "further investigation from the proper authorities."
Brett Turner, Gilbert's attorney, said he was "fairly confident" that jurors planned to notify Darragh's office and the Department of Family and Children's Services in hopes that the state would launch an investigation into "the alleged victim's family."
According to court records, Gilbert rejected a plea offer from the district attorney's office that would have reduced his aggravated child molestation charges to child molestation, which also would have lowered his sentence to 20 years with 15 to serve.
Had he been convicted of aggravated child molestation, he could have faced a maximum of life in prison.
"It's a tragedy all the way around. He's very relieved," Turner said of his client. "His mom said she's already seen a huge difference in his demeanor.
"While he was acquitted, the charges were brought against him. That's going to be difficult for him to overcome, especially at such a young age. He has plans to go back to school and further his education and that's what he is working on now."