Crime

Former salon owner appeals 2014 child molestation convictions, 30-year sentence

Salon owner sentenced to 30 years for child molestation

In 2014, Houston County jurors found Matthew Caleb Pierce guilty of six counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual battery, one count of sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of distributi
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In 2014, Houston County jurors found Matthew Caleb Pierce guilty of six counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual battery, one count of sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of distributi

A former Centerville salon owner and hair stylist found guilty of molesting three teenage boys in 2011 is appealing his convictions and 30-year prison sentence.

In 2014, Houston County jurors found Matthew Caleb Pierce guilty of six counts of aggravated child molestation, two counts of child molestation, two counts of sexual battery, one count of sexual exploitation of a child and two counts of distribution of controlled substances.

The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case Monday in Atlanta.

During the trial, Pierce testified that the teenagers, all 14 years old at the time, made up stories against him to avoid getting into trouble.

At the time of the alleged incidents, Pierce was 31, according to a case summary compiled by a supreme court spokeswoman.

According to the summary:

One of the teens lived in the same apartment complex as Pierce. He and the other boys “hung out” with Pierce at Pierce’s apartment where they would sit on the porch and drink beer together.

On one occasion, one of the teenagers passed out on Pierce’s couch and prosecutors contended Pierce engaged in sex acts with the boy.

Authorities also alleged Pierce engaged in sex acts with the other two teens and offered drugs to one of them in exchange for a picture of the boy’s genitals.

A video interview of one of the teenagers was played at the trial despite the boy initially testifying he didn’t remember talking with police or anything about acts of molestation.

After a recess for lunch, a prosecutor asked the teen additional questions and he said he remembered giving the statement.

Pierce’s trial lawyer requested a mistrial based on the video being played, but the judge denied the request.

His appellate lawyers now argue that the judge made several errors, including allowing the video to be admitted as evidence after the teenager refused to testify about details of the alleged sexual offenses.

They argue that prosecutors didn’t present any other evidence to prove the alleged crimes committed against the teen other than the “disturbing video of the crying teenager that brought some of the jurors to tears.”

Contacted Thursday, attorney Laura D. Hogue said Pierce was effectively denied any opportunity for cross-examining the teenager, in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment confrontation clause.”

“This fundamental right is a bedrock procedural guarantee and is a concept that dates back to Roman times. Violation of that right forms the basis for Mr. Pierce to be granted a new trial, free from constitutional error,” said Hogue, one of the attorneys representing Pierce in his appeal.

Pierce’s lawyers also argue the judge made an error in admitting photos of text messages from the phone of another boy without proper authentication and identification linking them to Pierce.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

Amy Leigh Womack: 478-744-4398, @awomackmacon

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