By Art Lawler

Staff Writer

ADA — John Hayes, who is charged with molestation in Pontotoc County, appeared in District Judge Steven Kessinger’s courtroom Wednesday afternoon and listened to the testimony of a minor under the age of 16.

The prosecution has charged Hayes with first degree rape.

The victim’s testimony Wednesday was given without the media in the courtroom because  Oklahoma law protects youth who testify in sensitive cases.

However, a second witness, Debbie Crowl, who lived in the same Ada apartment complex, testified she saw Hayes put his hands on the victim in an inappropriate manner on two different occasions between early June and the end of July of this year.

Crowl testified she and her three young girls were outside the apartment complex at a picnic table next to the playground drawing with crayons when the victim approached, wanting to play.

After inviting the victim to join them, Crowl said a man she identified in the courtroom as Hayes also joined them. Crowl said she observed Hayes rubbing the back of the victim’s neck and making inappropriate remarks about the victim’s body. She testified the man also began kissing the victim on the neck and placed his hand on the victim’s thigh. Crowl told the judge of a second fondling incident where more overt sexual contact was described.

Crowl said she was uncertain about what to do, but she turned the video of her cell phone on and recorded the events.

Pontotoc County Assistant District Attorney Jim Tillison asked Judge Kessinger to place a copy of the video, which had been made into a DVD with a neighbor’s computer, into evidence. The video was later withdrawn by Tillison, which is common in preliminary cases. In doing so, he retains the evidence for a later time.

Kessinger said he found the testimony sufficient to believe there is probable cause Hayes may be guilty of lewd acts and he may have committed other acts alleged by the state.

He ordered the suspect to appear for a second hearing on May 29, 2013.

The case isn’t expected to reach a jury panel until sometime next year, Tillison said.