Tifton Gazette

Local News

September 29, 2008

Tifton man convicted of child molestation

TIFTON — A 47-year-old Tifton man will spend the next 50 years in prison after a nine-man three-woman jury found him guilty Thursday of child molestation, aggravated child molestation and distribution of cocaine for acts he committed with a 15-year-old girl earlier this year.

A jury for Jefferson “Jet” Watson’s trial was chosen Monday and testimony began Wednesday. The state rested its case Thursday morning after the girl took the stand and testified that Watson had given her pills before having sex with her and that he had taught her how to smoke crack cocaine as the sexual abuse continued.

The jury deliberated for two and a half hours Thursday before bringing back the guilty verdict. Watson was sentenced by Tift Superior Court Judge Bill Reinhardt.

Assistant district attorney Ronnie Wheeler said that the girl’s mother reported to the Tift County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year that her daughter had run away from home and that she suspected her daughter was with Watson. Deputies went to Watson’s home and found the girl naked and hiding in Watson’s closet. Watson was arrested in early March.

In a press release, Wheeler said he told the jury in his closing arguments that Watson “was the man mothers warn their children against. He’s the man mothers pray their little girls never meet. He’s the cool adult. The one who says it’s OK to hang out, smoke a little dope, have a little sex.”

Wheeler said Watson was indicted on another child molestation charge in the late ‘90s but it couldn’t be prosecuted because the alleged victim had left the state and didn’t want to return to Georgia to testify.

Wheeler said Watson denied having sex with the girl, but DNA tests proved otherwise. Evidence presented during the trial included results of a rape kit, a crack pipe, a condom and various pictures taken of Watson’s home. Wheeler commended Deputy Jason Barber and other deputies and Investigator Cliff Henderson for their quick response and proper handling of the case.

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