Heiser found guilty of sexual battery

Friday, April 4, 2014

By Jessica Moore

Staff Writer

A Marshall County jury returned a mixed verdict at the end of a two-day trial this week. Michael P. Heiser, 42, of Spring Place Road, was found guilty of sexual battery without consent, guilty of sexual battery by physical or mental incapacity or helplessness, and guilty of simple possession. The jury found him not guilty of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and not guilty of attempted introduction of contraband into a penal institution.

The state was represented by Assistant District Attorneys Eddie Barnard and Mike Randalls. The defendant was represented by Bill Harold and Mike Collins of the Public Defender's Office.

On the second day of the trial several witnesses were called to stand. Lewisburg Police Officer Joey Repasky recalled his role that evening. He was responsible for transporting the defendant from the location of the incident at the Summit Apartments in Lewisburg to Marshall County Jail. Before transporting the defendant, Repasky patted him down to check for weapons and or contraband. After arriving at the jail, they entered the sally port. Repasky asked Heiser if he had anything illegal on him, and said he explained that once they entered the jail, it would be considered a larger offense. At that time the defendant replied he had nothing illegal on him. Repasky then said that once the correctional officer did a more thorough search, he found pills in the defendant's pockets. It was later confirmed there were only two pills found. During cross examination, Collins noted the defendant was handcuffed and not able to check his own pockets, and that with two tiny pills, it was fair to say he may have forgotten they were in his pocket. The witness agreed.

The correction officer at the time of the incident, Terry Wright, was the next witness. He described his normal routine as a CO and explained how he found the pills while performing a thorough search once the defendant entered the jail. Wright checked Heiser's pockets and pulled out some change and it was then the pills were found. Again, during cross examination Collins pointed out that neither officer could feel the pills initially, adding to his previous point that the defendant did not remember the pills being in his pocket.

Special Agent Brett Trotter, a forensic chemist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, was brought to the stand to identify the pills. He is considered an expert in the field of chemistry, with a master's degree in chemistry from Vanderbilt University. He explained the procedures followed by the TBI and his department for keeping records of evidence and how it is stored and tracked. He then identified the sealed bag of pills as having a barcode from the TBI as well as his initials on it. He identified both pills, one was identified as a Zyrtek, the other as a form of hydrocodone.

As the trial neared its end, the defense called their only witness, the father of the victim. He explained what happened as he remembered it. He recalled the victim waking him from sleep on the couch and telling him what had just happened. Questioning from Collins was brief. The witness claimed to not remember ever meeting with the attorney at his office. Once the prosecutor was able to question the witness, his testimony quickly turned into confusion and contradiction. Barnard handed a piece of paper to the witness and asked him to read it and explain what it was to the jury. He read it to himself, and then explained it was his statement from the night of the incident. Barnard began to read parts of the statement to the jury. The answers given on the stand compared to the statement on paper were quite different. The witness explained he had passed out that evening, had a bad memory, and had drunk a case or case and a half of beer. All of this was said after claiming he was not an alcoholic and did not have memory issues. The witness explained that after being told what happened by the victim he asked the defendant to leave. Not long after, the police were notified.

The closing arguments given by both prosecution and defense were lengthy and thought provoking. The prosecution asked the jury to find Heiser guilty as charged, while the defense asked the jury to find him innocent of all charges. After deliberation, the jury found him guilty on both counts of sexual battery and one count of simple possession. They found him not guilty of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and not guilty of attempted introduction of contraband into a penal institution. After the jury gave their verdict, Heiser's bond was revoked and he was led away to jail. When the Tribune went to press, the date of Heiser's sentencing hearing had not been set.

According to the Tribune's account of Heiser's indictment in June, he made a bond of $31,500, but filled out an affidavit of indigency, stating that he had no assets when he appeared in court for arraignment. When questioned by Judge Forest Durard Jr., Heiser said his girlfriend helped him make bond. Durard appointed the Public Defender's Office to represent Heiser, but ordered him to pay a $2,500 fee toward their services before his next court appearance.

While out on bond, Heiser got in trouble in neighboring Maury County, and has pleaded guilty to evading arrest and theft there. He still has a pending charge there for shoplifting, according to documents in his case file. Heiser has been on the Sexual Offender Registry in Tennessee since 2002.