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Man acquitted on all charges after suicide attempt

<p>Matt Ward / Pahrump Valley Times - Jackie Lee Argabright leaves District Court on a stretcher last Wednesday. The man was facing five life sentences on charges of child sex assault. He attempted suicide by drinking 20 ounces of antifreeze. The trial continued despite him being hospitalized. A jury took two hours to find Argabright not guilty on all counts on Friday.</p>

Matt Ward / Pahrump Valley Times - Jackie Lee Argabright leaves District Court on a stretcher last Wednesday. The man was facing five life sentences on charges of child sex assault. He attempted suicide by drinking 20 ounces of antifreeze. The trial continued despite him being hospitalized. A jury took two hours to find Argabright not guilty on all counts on Friday.

A man facing life in prison on multiple child sex offenses was acquitted by a jury Friday.

Jackie Lee Argabright wasn’t in the courtroom to celebrate the verdict — jurors acquitted the man after deliberating for just two hours. He was convalescing at Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas after he attempted to kill himself Wednesday by drinking about 20 ounces of antifreeze.

Argabright’s condition was said to be dire as his trial in District Court concluded — his sister, Joy Souther, told the courtroom that he was on a ventilator and that his kidneys were failing.

But by Tuesday, one of his attorneys said he believed the man was recovering well and should be discharged from the hospital in the next day or so.

Michael Becker, Argabright’s defense attorney, said his client’s suicide attempt added more trauma to an already dramatic case.

“I’ve tried a lot of cases where my client was looking at life in prison, but I have never experienced something quite like this. You develop a bond with your client, you care and you invest a lot of energy. So when something tragic like this occurs, it’s very difficult. It was hard for us as lawyers to put our emotions aside and we were basically told the trial is going forward,” he said.

Becker had appealed to Judge Robert Lane to continue the trial or even declare a mistrial, but the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Tim Treffinger, argued that the case should continue despite the defendant’s hospitalization.

Argabright’s attorneys had even made a motion to the Nevada Supreme Court seeking an emergency stay just before the jury reached its verdict.

Asked how his client responded when told he was cleared of all charges, Becker said the man was relieved.

“To say relieved and pleased would be to put it mildly. He was very happy. As soon as the verdict was read, his wife drove out to break the news,” the attorney said.

Argabright and his wife were in Pahrump for the trial but live in Texas. When he was arrested and charged, Becker said Argabright and his wife lost everything and were forced to leave town.

“They were all in on this case,” he said.

Becker said he did not poll jurors to find out why they acquitted his client, but he believes it was a combination of lack of evidence, the long years that separated the alleged incidents and when the allegations were made, as well as the police work on the part of a Nye County detective.

Argabright was accused by two young girls of forcing them to perform oral sex on him and he on them, though no physical evidence was introduced by the state. He faced the prospect of five life terms, or life with the chance of parole after 175 years in prison.

Becker said Det. David Boruchowitz’s handling of the case most likely harmed the prosecution.

“It is my belief that his police work did not help the case. His interrogation of my client was just brutal. I argued to the jury that his interrogation style was such that an innocent man would, it is understandable when you read the transcripts how an innocent man would confess,” Becker said.

“My client did not confess, but man when you read it, he put so much pressure and with promises of leniency and suggestions that if my client would just admit he engaged in wrongdoing the case would go away, it would be reduced or minimized, there would be minimal consequences to him. I asked the jury to read his interrogation because he does cross lines, I believe.”

Not just the interrogation, but jurors also heard how one of the victims attempted to recant her allegations against Argabright in writing only to be placed in handcuffs and threatened with arrest for filing a false police report. The detective testified that he believed the girl was falsely recanting based on pressure from family members.

Treffinger said he was unable to comment on the verdict Tuesday but that a prepared statement on the trial would likely be released today. He confirmed that it was his first trial.

Freelance reporter Christy Graham contributed to this article.

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