BEACH, N.D.-The former LaMoure police chief accused of continuously sexually abusing a child under the age of 15 in multiple southwest North Dakota counties was found guilty Monday, Feb. 5, at the Golden Valley County Courthouse in Beach.
After spending nearly three hours deliberating, the 12-person jury found James G. Watson, 52, guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child, a Class AA felony. A presentence investigation was ordered by Southwest District Judge William Herauf and must be completed in 60 days. A Class AA felony faces a maximum of life in prison without parole.
Forum News Service typically does not identify accusers or victims in sexual assault cases.
Charges are still pending against Watson in Stark and Hettinger counties.
Watson, who was serving as chief of police for the LaMoure Police Department when he was arrested on the charges in June 2017, appeared Monday in the Golden Valley County courtroom with his attorney, Kevin McCabe, for the fourth and final day of the trial.
The trial included testimony from the victim, North Dakota Bureau of Investigations Special Agent Timothy Helmer, Watson's wife and others. Watson testified on Monday morning.
The victim in the case testified last week about three separate occasions where she distinctly remembered having to have sexual intercourse with Watson in order to be able to go and do various things.
"She had to pay to go," Golden Valley's state's attorney Christina Wenko said during her closing argument.
This occurred between the fall of 2011 and January 2012, according to court documents.
The victim also testified that Watson had a small "mole" or skin marking on left side of his pelvic region which was not visible when the defendant was wearing underwear. She said she could identify the marker because she had to perform oral sex on the defendant in the past. The small marking was visible in photos which were shown by the state earlier in the case.
Watson denied the allegations made against him, saying that he never sexually abused the victim. He also claimed he never sent lewd photos of himself to the victim.
Watson's attorney, Kevin McCabe, said the state had "failed miserably" in providing corroborating evidence in their case and again pointed to differences in the victim's story. At the beginning of his closing argument McCabe played a video of the victim saying nothing happened at Buffalo Gap Guest Ranch in her first interview with Helmer. He also pointed to other inconsistencies in her story and spoke of the lack of reporting by the victim in the case.
In Wenko's response, she said that sexual assault is a "horrific" crime and noted it would be difficult for someone to come forward and report the crime.
"No one in this courtroom can do anything to make (the victim's) nightmares go away," she said, and continued saying that the jury could make the decision to "believe her" and find the defendant guilty.
Watson faces more charges later this week for alleged sexual abuse of the same victim in Stark and Hettinger counties.
In the upcoming case, Stark County will serve as the primary county in the trial and Hettinger County will serve as the backup. The trial is set for Feb. 7-9 in Dickinson. In Stark County, Watson is facing one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, a Class AA felony. In Hettinger County he is facing one count of gross sexual imposition, also a Class AA felony.