Houston & Peach

Trial underway for Kathleen man accused of child molestation

PERRY -- The trial of a Kathleen man accused of molesting three teenage boys in the summer of 2011 is underway in Houston County Superior Court.

Matthew Caleb Pierce is on trial on six counts of aggravated child molestation, three counts of child molestation, one count of sexual battery of a child and two counts of distribution of prescription drugs.

Tuesday, jurors heard opening statements from prosecution and defense attorneys as well as some testimony, including from two of the teenagers. In the summer of 2011, the boys were all 14 years old, and Pierce was 31.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Anthony set forth the allegations against Pierce, who owned Matthew Caleb Salon in Centerville at the time. The salon has since closed.

Anthony told jurors that Pierce befriended the boys and provided all three teenagers alcohol and one of the boys prescription drugs. Anthony alleged that Pierce took advantage of the boys, engaging in sexual acts with them while they were under the influence “in essence to molest them.”

Pierce’s attorney Franklin J. Hogue, of Macon, told jurors that Pierce denies the allegations.

Hogue said Pierce’s apartment was a gathering place for friends and family, and his door was always open. He said the boys had been chased off several times.

The teenagers could have gotten into the alcohol in Pierce’s apartment and found the prescription drugs that were on a bedroom dresser, Hogue said. He argued that the prosecution’s case was based solely on “the words of these teenage boys.”

The allegations surfaced when a sheriff’s deputy stopped one of the teenagers who was riding his scooter in the parking lot of the apartment complex in July 2011.

The boy appeared to be under the influence and agreed for Houston County sheriff’s Lt. Ronald Brainard to search him. The deputy, who lived in the apartment complex, found prescription pills in the boy’s pants pockets.

The teenager told the deputy that he got the pills from Pierce in exchange for engaging in sexual acts with him.

Hogue argued the boy, who knew he was facing felony charges for possessing the pills, deflected that by accusing Pierce, a single gay man, of worse crimes. The teenager used a derogatory term for gay men when he spoke to the deputy, Hogue said.

The teenager’s statement led to an investigation in which authorities also interviewed his friends.

In a video that was played for jurors, another boy told a sheriff’s investigator through tears and sobs that he had engaged in sexual acts with Pierce after consuming alcohol at Pierce’s apartment. But on the witness stand, the teenager said he could not remember what happened in Pierce’s bedroom.

Another teenager testified that Pierce had touched him in his private area while he was peeing on a fence outside of Pierce’s apartment building. He also testified that he texted Pierce a photo of his private part upon Pierce’s request. The photograph he allegedly sent Pierce is the basis for the sexual battery charge.

Brainard testified of his encounter with the boy on the scooter. He also testified about an incident within the same time frame of the allegations. In that incident, Brainard said he overheard Pierce wanting the teenagers to stop horseplay outside his apartment. Pierce also complained to the deputy about having problems with the boys hanging out at his apartment.

Hogue asked jurors to listen carefully to what was missing in the prosecution’s case. He asked them to note whether prosecutors produce any eyewitnesses or physical evidence of the allegations. He noted that Pierce had a roommate, a woman whom he employed at the time.

Testimony is expected to resume Wednesday before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.