Patterson man guilty of molesting girl, 11

FRANKLIN, La. — A jury deliberated 70 minutes then convicted William Baytop, 65, of two counts of molestation of a juvenile Thursday in district court.

State sentencing guidelines call for a 25-year minimum sentence when 16th Judicial District Judge Lori Landry next sees the convicted man on June 11. Landry set bail at $500,000.

After the trial, prosecutor Erica Johnson Rose said, “If there is a sexual predator, I would like to see that person convicted and labeled as a sex offender to protect others.”

Baytop was arrested Dec. 5, 2011, by Patterson police and accused of a string of sexual contacts with a then 11-year-old girl that began when she was 8 years old.

After a three-day trial, the nine-man, three-woman jury chose not to convict him on the more serious offense of aggravated rape in the first count. The jury agreed with the prosecution’s charge of molestation of a juvenile in the other incident.

Jury foreman Joseph Demahy said, “We were comfortable with that verdict for both of the charges. I believe it was a just verdict.”

Defense attorney C.E. Bourg said he would appeal the case. He argued that two verdicts of molestation of a juvenile was in effect being sentenced twice for the same offense.

Rose said that she was satisfied with the jury’s decision to convict on the lesser charge in the first count. She pointed out that Baytop’s age and health conditions would likely mean any sentence given him would keep him in prison the rest of his life.

During the course of the trial two other females came forward and accused Baytop of sexual contact with them while they were juveniles. Baytop had been their volunteer basketball coach.

The victim’s mother sat midway of the courtroom when the jury returned and the clerk began to read the verdict. Her clasped hands fidgeted nervously as she held a steady gaze on the clerk. When the first guilty verdict was read, a faint smile briefly crossed her face.

Four rows up and across the room, Baytop’s 24-year-old daughter sat directly behind her father who was dressed in a black suit and stoically clutched a walking cane. She leaned forward with shoulders slightly heaving and cried quietly with her face covered in her hands as the jury read the two guilty verdicts. Baytop showed no emotion as the verdict was announced.

“This was a tragic case for both sides,” Patterson Police Chief Patrick LaSalle said afterwards. “My prayers go to the victim and her family.”

Rose reminded jurors during closing arguments that the victim’s younger sister testified she had seen Baytop lying in bed with the victim. She reminded the jurors that the victim’s younger brother testified that he was 7 or 8 years old when he saw the 285-pound Baytop lying on top of the victim.

She made an emotional plea for the jurors to remember the words of the victim, who is now 13, as she testified that “it hurt” when she was asked to describe what happened.

Bourg described his client as a generous man of good character and a good reputation in the community who had served his country with three tours of duty in Vietnam. He pointed out that his client had volunteered many hours to coach young girls’ basketball teams.

“You have to decide. He is either evil or he is a kind man,” Bourg said of his client. “It doesn’t make sense to me. … You have to decide if Mr. Baytop (would do this) on an 8- or 9-year old girl. … It seems to me like he is a pretty nice guy.”

Bourg attempted to cast doubt on the testimony of the victim’s siblings because of their age. He asked the jury to question why it would take the victim more than three years to confide abuse. He questioned the reason and motivation for the other girls coming forward with allegations.

The defense attorney pointed out a physician’s examination of the victim on the evening of the accusation.

“I think you have to find that there was no rape in the ordinary sense because there was no physical trauma,” Bourg told the jury. He closed his argument by asking the jury to consider that there was “possibly someone else (who) had the opportunity … whoever they were. … My job is to bring up reasonable doubt. I hope that I did.”

Rose told the jury that victims of sex crimes are often reluctant to disclose what has happened for many reasons, including fear and embarrassment. She said that the legal definitions of rape or molestation would allow for actions that do not cause physical trauma.

The prosecutor questioned why three different girls would fabricate claims of abuse on them by Baytop. She pointed out that the victim’s mother had lost financial help from Baytop as well as his use as a babysitter in bringing forward the allegations of abuse.

“I would not classify him as evil. … I believe he used his position to get close to little girls. … I see him more as a sexual predator,” Rose said.

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