Preliminary hearing set in Jetton assault case

Friday, January 22, 2010
Rod Jetton, seen here in a Cole County, Mo., booking photo after he turned himself in on an assault charge.

BENTON, Mo. -- The preliminary hearing for former Missouri House speaker Rod Jetton's felony assault case will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 24, Associate Circuit Judge Terry L. Brown decided Thursday.

At that time, Jetton will have the first opportunity to hear evidence against him on charges that he punched and choked a Sikeston, Mo., woman Nov. 15. It would also be the first time Jetton himself has appeared in a courtroom because of the charges. The date was agreed on by the prosecuting attorney in the case and Jetton's attorney, Stephen C. Wilson of Cape Girardeau, outside of court.

According to the complaint filed with the court, Jetton "recklessly caused serious physical injury" to the victim "by hitting her on the head, and choking her resulting in unconsciousness and the loss of the function of a part of her body."

The charge carries a maximum punishment of seven years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Jetton has not consented to be interviewed about the case.

In a written statement issued in December, Wilson said Jetton denies he's guilty of the alleged assault he's been charged with.

"Mr. Jetton was shocked and surprised when first advised of the allegation made against him," the statement read. "Now that a complaint is filed in court, Mr. Jetton's only comments are that he is not guilty, and will vigorously defend this allegation in court and not in the media."

According to a sworn statement filed in support of the charge, Jetton and the woman spoke early in the day of Nov. 15, and he arrived with wine that evening. She drank it as they watched a football game, then faded in and out of consciousness.

The two agreed to have sex, and to use a safe word, "green balloons," if either wanted to stop, according to the affidavit signed by Detective Betty McDermott of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.

An earlier incident report, however, states that the woman told officers Jetton restrained her hands with a belt and performed unwanted sex. She told police she recalled Jetton striking her hard in the face and at one point waking up on the floor as he was choking her.

In the incident report, the woman told police that Jetton stayed the night and told her the next day that she "should have said 'green balloons.'"

Jetton is not facing any sex charges.

Jetton, a Republican from Marble Hill, Mo., represented the 156th District Missouri House seat from 2001 to 2009. He was elected speaker in 2005, serving in the post considered the second most powerful job in state government until he was forced out of office by term limits.

While a lawmaker, Jetton began a political consulting business, first called Commonsense Conservative Consulting and later, after he left the legislature, Rod Jetton & Associates. After he was charged with the assault, Jetton announced he would close his consulting firm.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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