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franklin county times

Sexual battery trial of Meridian teacher delayed

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
Dec. 5, 2000
Jury members were sent home Monday morning after a continuance was granted in the sexual battery trial of a suspended Meridian Public Schools teacher.
Jury members were to hear the case against 27-year-old Rodney Laron Chatham, a Carver Middle School sixth- and seventh-grade teacher indicted for the sexual battery of a 3-year-old boy.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell said the delay was granted because defense attorneys listed a last-minute expert witness, and prosecutors did not have enough time to find their own expert witness to rebuttal testimony.
The sexual battery indictment against Chatham was re-issued last week, amending the date of the alleged abuse from February 2000 to September 1999. The indictment alleges Chatham was in a "position of trust" over the boy.
The trial was rescheduled for April 2.
Chatham faces a second trial April 16, after a grand jury returned a two-count indictment in July for the alleged 1989 lustful touching of a then 8-year-old boy and the alleged 1996 lustful touching of a then 9-year-old boy.
Carver Middle School Principal Robert Markham said Chatham has been suspended from his teaching position, and that district officials will not contemplate allowing him to return to the classroom until the criminal proceedings against him have been concluded.
In other court news, the statutory rape trial of Leon McCoy was also delayed in Lauderdale County Circuit Court. McCoy is accused of the December 1999 kidnapping and statutory rape of a then 15-year-old girl. A grand jury returned the indictments against 42-year-old Leon McCoy in March.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.