New trials ordered for Clinton man accused of child sex assault

November 30, 2018

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the convictions of a former gymnastics teacher found guilty of sexually assaulting three girls, including a teenager he used to coach, more than two years ago.

Keith Callen, 47, of Clinton Township was convicted by a jury in March 2017 of charges including aggravated indecent assault on someone under 16 and on someone under 13; sexual assault by a sports official; unlawful contact with a minor; corruption of minors; and endangering the welfare of children. In May 2017, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced him to 13 to 26 years in prison.

Investigators charged Callen in April 2016 after one of his former students reported being sexually abused from age 13 or 14 to 17. The girl told police Callen told her that he’d “ask her out” if he were her age, and gave her a silver ring engraved with “Forever love” for Christmas.

Two more girls came forward to say they’d been abused by Callen in the early 2000s, when they were 6 or 7 years old.

The cases were tried together in Allegheny County despite the fact one was alleged to have occurred in Allegheny County and the other was alleged to have occurred in Butler County.

In a pre-trial motion, Callen said the case alleged to have occurred in Butler County should be tried there. He also said the Butler County case should be tried separately from the Allegheny County case because they weren’t connected.

The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that both cases were part of the same criminal episode, and the decision was made following the consultation of the Allegheny and Butler County district attorney’s offices and the Pennsylvania State Police, the investigating agency.

However, in an opinion filed Oct. 31 by Superior Court Judge Judith Ference Olson, Superior Court found the trial court erred in its decision to try the Butler County case in Allegheny County. The Superior Court vacated Callen’s judgment of sentence, reversed his convictions, and remanded him for new trials in both cases.

The superior court also concluded the two cases weren’t part of the same criminal episode. According to Olson, the two cases wouldn’t have been admissible in separate trials to prove a common scheme because they’re too dissimilar.

Additionally, Olson wrote, there is no way to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the verdict in the Butler County case wasn’t influenced by the fact that the trial was held in Allegheny County. According to Olson, it is a general rule cases be tried in the county in which they were alleged to have occurred.

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