Diboll man found guilty of sexual assaulting mentally challenged woman

Perry Haggerton (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Perry Haggerton (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for almost three hours, an Angelina County jury found a 54-year-old Diboll man guilty of sexual assault in connection to a mentally challenged woman's claim that he took her clothes off and had nonconsensual sex with her in July 2005.

Perry Jerome Haggerton was arrested nearly two years ago. According to an arrest warrant affidavit, the investigation began in July of 2005.

The jurors found Haggerton not guilty of the more serious charge of aggravated sexual assault.

The woman told police she was walking down West Frank Street when a man in a truck pulled up and told her to get in the truck with him. Haggerton took her to her apartment complex, walked to the passenger side of the truck, the woman's clothes off, and had sex with her.

Haggerton was arrested in 2011 after DNA evidence connected him to the crime.

In day two of Haggerton's trial, both the state and defense rested their case.

In closing arguments, Defense attorney Ryan Deaton told the jury the victim wasn't severely mentally challenged.

"Mental illness just doesn't overcome you one day," Deaton said. "I don't believe she was where she is today."

Deaton said the state didn't prove Haggerton was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

During the trial, the state told to jury the assault happened in front of the victim's residence. Deaton told the jury if the victim was being attacked, she could have cried for help.

"She's home, why not just run to the door and walk inside?" said Deaton.

Assistant District Attorney Elmer Beckworth told the jury the victim explained the situation to the best of her ability with a mental handicap and said she didn't consent.

Beckworth said nearly every witness that testified said the victim was mentally challenged and said she does the best she can despite her disability.

"This case show that those who have trouble protecting themselves can speak up for themselves," Becksworth said.

The jury began deliberations around 12:30 this afternoon.

Once the verdict was read character witnesses took the stand, Clyde Herrington former Angelina County District Attorney, said Haggerton has a long list of drug convictions and said he has a bad reputation.

Haggerton's sister-in-law, Cynthia Haggerton took the stand and told jurors Haggerton had never been inappropriate with her and she had never seen him be inappropriate with another woman.

"He's a good guy, I know he's had trouble but as time went on he didn't so me anything but respect for his mother and respect for me," said Cynthia Haggerton.

Dennis Brock told the jury he worked with Haggerton and said she was impressed with his work ether.

"He's always been there, I've never seen the darker side of him," said Brock.

The trial recessed just after 5:00 p.m. Thursday, defense plans to call one more witness before the jury can begin deliberating punishment.

Haggerton's jury trial was held in Angelina County's 217th Judicial District Court. County-court-at-law Judge Robert Inselmann presided over the trial.

According to a document from Texas' Second Judicial Region, Inselmann was assigned to preside over felony criminal cases to "dispose of any accumulated business" in the 217th Judicial District Court. Basically, Inselmann is presiding over cases in the court to help clear a backlog of criminal court cases.

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