VIRGINIA CITY - The arraignment of a former Virginia City High School teacher was postponed because of unclear information and a dispute over wording in the information to be provided to a potential jury.
William Beeson, a former Virginia City High School drama and English teacher, was to be arraigned Friday on one count of felony sexual assault and one count of gross misdemeanor unlawful contact with a child. The first alleged incident occurred more than 10 years ago; the second allegedly occurred last spring.
Storey County Assistant District Attorney Laura Grant said the two counts should have been clearly separated, but in the official criminal complaint the information appeared to be related.
She said her oversight of how office staff prepared the complaint led to the error.
District Judge William Maddox delayed the case until Sept. 19 to clear up the mistake.
John Arrascada of Reno, Beeson's attorney, objected to the two counts listed together, since the alleged incidents occurred years apart, and also objected to the use of the word "child" in the description of the first count.
Arrascada said because Beeson was bound over on a straight sexual assault charge, not sexual assault with a child, the use of the word "child" in the complaint to describe the alleged victim was prejudicial.
"This will taint a jury even more, referring to a nonchild as a child in the information," he said. "I'm more than happy to come back and do this properly. This has information that is not in the counts."
Grant argued that even though Beeson was not charged with sexual assault on a minor or child, the wording was still correct.
"We went through the same argument in lower court," she said. "Frankly, 16 years old is a child."
Arrascada accused Grant of trying to taint potential jurors.
"It's clearly being done to prejudice Beeson in front of the jury," he said. "We are confident of our case, and if we stay away from the prejudice this DA is trying to instill, we will be OK."
Grant denied trying to prejudice the case and indicated it is common sense that a 16-year-old was a child.
"He was a child at the time," she said. "He isn't anymore."
Maddox told Arrascada to put his objection to the language in the form of a motion that Grant can respond to, and then he would rule on the issue.
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