Not guilty verdict sends child victim to hospital

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<p>Robert Michael Pearson</p>

The distraught young accuser at the center of a 2013 child molestation case had to be transported to the local hospital Thursday afternoon after learning a jury had found her alleged attacker not guilty.

Robert Michael Pearson, 45, was found not guilty of lewdness with a child under 14 years of age, a category A felony, following a three-day trial in District Court.

The jury, who was also given the option to convict the defendant of a lesser offense of unlawful touching of a child, found Pearson not guilty of that offense as well.

The charges stemmed from a June 2, 2013 incident at the victim’s Pahrump home where Pearson was alleged to have grabbed the then 9-year-old girl and held her down as he rubbed himself against her.

During his opening arguments Tuesday, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirk Vitto told jurors there was no physical evidence in the case, but the testimony of both the victim and corroborating witnesses would prove Pearson was guilty.

“What he did, according to (the victim) was not a mistake, it was a crime,” he said. “When (the victim) went inside, the defendant grabbed her little legs, held them up and began to rub himself against her.”

The state argued the incident was likely precipitated by a photograph Pearson sent to an inmate at the Lovelock Correctional Center in 2011.

According to the prosecution, the girl in the photograph looked similar to the victim in this case.

Pearson’s defense attorney, Harry Gensler, asked the jury to carefully examine each bit of testimony and evidence to decide if his client was truly guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In almost all cases the state charges the most heinous act they can with the facts they believe are facts. So they charged him with the category A felony of lewdness with a child under 14. If you don’t believe he’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you have to find him not guilty,” he said.

The state called 11 witnesses to the stand, including law enforcement officers, doctors, the victim and her family.

On Wednesday, the victim told the court on the day of the alleged incident she had gone inside to ask Pearson, who was babysitting her, a question while she and her friend were outside cleaning her family’s pool. That’s when she said he grabbed her and began rubbing is privates against hers while they were sitting on her couch.

The girl said at one point he stopped when they heard her dog wagging its tail against the door. She then testified when he saw it was just the dog he said something to the effect of “oh that scared me,” before locking the door and turning back to her.

At some point the little girl said she was able to get up and run away from Pearson to her bedroom.

She said Pearson followed her and proceeded to grab her on her bed, before they fell to floor where he continued to rub himself on her. She said she continued to tell the man to stop, but he allegedly refused.

Once on the floor, the victim testified she told Pearson she needed to fix her skort, a skirt with shorts attached, and he let her get up. That’s when she said she was able to get away. She said ran to her neighbor’s house to tell her what happened.

The former neighbor testified the girl showed up at her door “frantic,” asking to call her mother.

The woman said after the girl told her Pearson had touched her, she left her with a family friend at the home to go back and get her son, who was at the victim’s residence with Pearson.

On the way, she said she saw Pearson driving toward her. When she asked him “really?” she testified he responded that he hadn’t done anything.

The girl’s mother, one of the last witnesses to testify, became emotional on the stand as she spoke about the phone call she received that afternoon from her daughter.

“I told her I would be right there. I dropped everything, right there in the store, and I ran out of the store,” she said crying.

The victim testified that before the alleged incident, while her mother was still home, she and Pearson had been playing a computer game. During that time she said Pearson made odd comments about the video game characters, including that they were “hot” and “sexy.”

After the incident, the girl testified Pearson tried to apologize, telling her he thought “she wanted it” and asking her not to tell her mother.

In his closing arguments, Vitto reiterated to the jury that the victim’s testimony had been uncontested.

“Based on the evidence, the defendant told (the victim) he knew what he was doing was a ‘dirty game,’” he said.

Gensler argued there was simply no proof.

The case was submitted to the jury Thursday afternoon. Three hours later, they returned with a verdict. The young victim, after hearing Pearson was not guilty, had a panic attack and an ambulance was called.

Pearson has a long criminal history involving sex crimes against children, with cases stretching from California to Reno.

Judge Kimberly Wanker disallowed the prosecution’s effort to get that information to jurors. Gensler argued much of it was too inflammatory and would prevent Pearson from getting a fair trial if it were admitted.