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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lawrence County jury returns guilty verdict

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lawrence County Prosecutor Robert George has earned his first conviction of 2010.

On Monday,a Lawrence County jury found Ben C. Sitton, 28, of Aurora, guilty of robbery in the second degree. Jury members deliberated for 80 minutes before returning their verdict. Lawrence County Associate Circuit Court Judge Scott S. Sifferman is scheduled to sentence Sitton on Feb. 9.
Sitton was found guilty of stealing a sports drink and a pair of underwear from the Aurora Walmart on Jan. 16, 2009. Sitton's crime might have resulted in nothing but a slap on the wrist had the defendant not fought against employees who were trying to question him about the thefts. According to Melissa Friend, a Walmart loss prevention specialist who testified at the trial, store employees became suspicious of how Sitton was acting and took a look at store surveillance videos. The videos, which were shown to the jury as evidence, revealed that Sitton had picked up a sports drink and consumed the drink while walking through the store.

Sitton was also caught on tape attempting to open a package of cologne and then picking up a pair of boxer shorts, ripped off the sales tag and cramming them in his pocket. Store officials kept an eye on Sitton as he walked through the store and finally approached him as got near an exit.

According to George, Sitton struck two employees who were attempting to detain him, which resulted in the criminal charges filed against him.

"Three employees were with Sitton when he admitted to stealing the sports drink," George said. "Sitton at first cooperated with employees and began to walk to the loss prevention office. Prior to leaving the vestibule area, Sitton bolted from the employees." Friend and another male employee grabbed Sitton in an attempt to stop him from leaving the store but he was able to get outside the door.

"Once outside the store, Sitton took a swing at the male employee, which was dodged," George explained. "While Melissa Friend continued to hold onto Sitton, Sitton stuck Friend in the chest with his fist."

George said he was pleased with the jury's verdict.

"The jury listened to the testimony of the victim and viewed a number of videotapes that captured the incident," George said. "The main issue was did the defendant use force when he stole from merchandise from the retailer. The answer was yes."

Sitton could now face a sentence of two and 15 years in prison for the robbery. George said Sitton's criminal record includes prior convictions for felony possession of controlled substance, felony stealing and felony resisting arrest for crimes that occurred in 2002, 2003 and 2008.

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