Jury says ‘not guilty’ for Franklin County man

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

NATCHEZ — A Franklin County man indicted earlier this year for sex crimes that allegedly occurred 15 years ago has been found not guilty.

An Adams County jury acquitted Harold Prather on one count of sexual battery and one count child fondling.

The case was heard in Adams County after Prather, a well-known property owner and life-long resident of Franklin County, asked for a venue change.

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Sixth Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson said the jury of seven men and five women deliberated for a little less than an hour before returning the verdict.

The trial started Monday morning and moved quickly, Johnson said.

The state, led by District Attorney Ronnie Harper, called four witnesses, including former gubernatorial candidate and U.S. representative, Mike Parker, who is related by marriage to the defendant.

The defense called no witnesses.

Prather, 85, was accused of sexual misconduct with two of his granddaughters who were 8 and 6 or 7, the exact age is unknown, at the time of the alleged crime.

The indictment, handed down on Aug. 17, said one incident allegedly happened in 1993, the other in 1994.

“It’s a little bit of an unusual situation,” Johnson said, since the incident happened years ago. “Charges were just brought forward this year. That does happen sometimes.”

There is no statute of limitations on these charges.

Wayne Dowdy was the defense attorney.