Ex-Jackson County deputy Jason McGrath has been found guilty on all four counts of sexual battery and one count of touching of a child for lustful purposes, all while in a position of trust or authority over the victims.
Special Judge Michael Ward sentenced McGrath to 40 full years in prison, then 10 years of post-release supervision. He also will have to register as a sex offender all his life.
Assistant District Attorney Shon Ellerby, who prosecuted the case along with ADA George Huffman, commended the victims for coming forward and testifying against McGrath, 48.
“This defendant has abused children in his family for many years. I am proud of the victims in this case, who came forward about the abuse and gave other victims of this defendant the courage to come forward about the abuse they suffered by him,” she said. “This sentence will ensure that the defendant will no longer have the opportunity to abuse another child.”
Huffman said the work of the Pascagoula Police Department helped the DA’s office make the case against McGrath.
McGrath’s attorney, Philip Whittman, rested his case without calling any witnesses.
In closing arguments, Whittman told the jury to consider authorities were unable to collect any forensic evidence, such as DNA, that would tie McGrath to the crimes.
In testimony, one of the children, then 13 years old, said McGrath first started making vulgar comments to her, such as telling her she was sexy or touching her body, but the behavior escalated, she said.
In June 2014, she said, McGrath performed oral sex on her and forced her to do the same to him. She said he also jumped on her and forced her to have intercourse, though she told him to “stop,” that it “hurt,” but he wouldn’t.
The girl said McGrath ejaculated on a pink shirt she had on that day, but that she washed it that day because it was laundry day for her.
In addition, authorities found no DNA evidence on sheets where the crime occurred, but Huffman pointed out McGrath used a condom and the shirt had been washed.
Another witness, age 3 at the time, said McGrath wouldn’t let her out of her bath one day until she agreed to perform oral sex on him.
The child was so frightened after talking to investigators about the assault that she broke down and cried in recordings of an interview.
The girl, now 9, also testified at trial.
The last of the witnesses Wednesday, former Pascagoula Police Detective Kim Stevens, testified she interviewed the teen when the crime was first reported.
She said the girl wrote in in detail how McGrath had allegedly sexually assaulted her.
She said she interviewed the girl and learned she had taken a shower after the sexual assault and had washed her clothing.
McGrath worked at the Sheriff’s Department from 2002 to 2013.
“When he was a deputy, this defendant took an oath to serve and protect this community,” District Attorney Tony Lawrence said after the verdict. “Not only did he violate his oath, but he also violated the trust these children and their family members placed in him to be around their children. Three children lost their innocence due to his depraved sexual abuse.”