Victim Decries Court Ruling That Allows Admitted Child Sex Abuser to Remain Free
By Samantha Perry
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
April 22, 2016
An emotional outburst by a victim and his mother followed the ruling of a judge Friday to allow an admitted child sex abuser to remain free on bond.
Fayette County Judge Charles Vickers declined to revoke the bond of Timothy Probert, 57, of Princeton, who pleaded guilty in Mercer County Circuit Court Monday to 37 charges related to child sexual abuse.
“What about the kids who live beside him?” the victim yelled to the judge following the adjournment of the hearing.
“You didn’t even hear about his trustworthiness!” the victim’s mother screamed, as she began crying hysterically.
Vickers was assigned to the case in 2015 after Mercer County Circuit Court judges Omar Aboulhosn, Derek Swope and William “Bill” Sadler recused themselves citing conflicts of interest.
During the hearing, assistant prosecuting attorneys George Sitler and Kelli Harshbarger made the motion to revoke Probert’s bond and remand him to custody in light of his admission of guilt.
Sitler said that Probert’s crime involved the use of violence, with that violence being the sexual assault of children.
“The question is can the court trust Tim Probert,” Sitler told the judge. He then asked that the prosecution be allowed “to put on a few witnesses to address Mr. Probert’s trustworthiness.”
Probert’s attorney, William Flanigan, said he did not contest the issue of the violence of the crimes. However, he argued that the guilty plea can be withdrawn before sentencing, and thus “a judgment of conviction” had not yet been reached.
Probert’s sentencing hearing is tentatively set for June to allow time for pre-sentence reports.
Vickers asked if there had ever been a time when Probert had not appeared for a court hearing, to which the prosecutors answered no, and then about his ties to the area.
Acknowledging he considered age and health, the judge ruled, “Mr. Probert will remain on bond.”
No witnesses were allowed to testify.
Probert, who was arrested in 2013, is a former youth volunteer at Westminster Presbyterian Church and mentor for the Working to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect (WE CAN) program.
His guilty plea Monday included seven counts of first-degree sexual abuse, three counts of third-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, one count of first-degree sexual assault, 24 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, and one count of delivery of a controlled substance.
He is facing 171 to 489 years in prison and as much as $50,000 in fines when sentenced.
Following the outburst by the victim and his mother, a bailiff escorted them to the hallway. Slowly, those in the courtroom made their way to the door with stunned looks or expressions of shock etched on their features.
Most of the victims, family members, friends and others continued to linger in the hallway.
When the prosecuting attorneys exited the courtroom, the victim lashed out in anger, shouting, “Is that the best you could do?” then railed at them for not getting an opportunity to testify.
“It’s not right to embarrass you, but I’m embarrassed,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to be here for what that m*****f***** did to me.”
The victim showed obvious anger and frustration, and also concern for children living near Probert.
“There’s nothing stopping him from bringing a 10- or 11-year-old into his home,” he shouted. “Until your children are forced to perform oral sex on another man you won’t know what it’s like.”
The victim later apologized to Sitler and Harshbarger, and shook their hands.
“The frustration of the victim over the lengthiness of this process is natural and understandable,” Sitler said after the hearing. “The judge does have discretion whether to allow continued bond after a plea has been entered, and we’re disappointed that he did not choose to allow us to present evidence in our motion to revoke the bond.”
Harshbarger, too, empathized with the victims’ frustration.
“I completely understand the victims’ frustration with today’s ruling,” she said. “Emotions were understandably high for everyone in the courtroom. I appreciate that many of the victims and their families remained after the hearing,” which allowed us to talk about this ruling and the next steps in this case.”
Westminster Presbyterian Pastor Jonathan Rockness described the bond ruling as “puzzling, to say the least.”
“I respect the judge, but I don’t understand why witnesses weren’t even allowed to testify in a motion filed before the court,” he said. “In each of the several pre-trial motions filed by the defense, they were afforded the opportunity to present their argument and question witnesses.
“These survivors and their families weren’t even given an explanation or a rationale for the decision,” Rockness continued. “But they have shown themselves to be strong people who persevere, and they will continue to do so now.”
Probert was arrested in December 2013 on 38 counts of child sexual abuse related charges. However, the number of charges grew to 50 when he was indicted in February of 2015.
The 12 new charges stemmed from another victim coming forward and additional charges being added in other cases, Sgt. M.D. Clemons, with the Crimes Against Children Unit of the West Virginia State Police, said in a previous report.
Clemons said the abuse occurred between 1986 and 2010. All the victims were male, and between the ages of 10 and 16 when the abuse occurred.
During a preliminary hearing in February 2014 on the charges, Clemons gave graphic testimony of the alleged acts, which included “mutual masturbation” between Probert and the victims, as well as oral and anal sex. She testified that the youths would come to Probert’s house, where he would give them alcohol and provide them with heterosexual pornographic movies.
At the plea hearing on Monday, Harshbarger told Vickers that 13 charges against Probert were being dropped because “one victim did not want to testify at trial ... and insufficient evidence.”
In a Daily Telegraph story in March, the mother of one of the victims spoke about losing faith in the justice system after the case has dragged on for more than two years.
“We believe the people on our side are doing a good job, like Sgt. Clemons and all the people in the prosecutor’s office, but it seems like the system allows too many ways for guilty people to keep things dragging on,” the mother, who was interviewed on the condition of anonymity, said. “I know the law says that a person is innocent until proven guilty, but Probert confessed to the police that he did these things to my son and to other children. Why was he ever allowed to be home after his arrest?”
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