The jury returned two guilty verdicts Friday evening in the second trial for a former Columbus chess teacher accused of inappropriately touching students.
The jury began deliberations around 3 p.m. and returned a guilty verdict around 7:20 p.m., finding F. Leon Wilson guilty on two counts of gross sexual imposition, which are fourth-degree felonies.
The jury also found him not guilty of another charge of gross sexual imposition.
The two charges he was convicted on also carry school safety-zone specifications which will add two years to any prison sentence.
A sentencing hearing was scheduled for July 29 at 3 p.m.
Prosecutors say Wilson, of 2785 Castlewood Road, Columbus, touched two students, a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old, during chess lessons in 2015 at The Prep Academy campus in Polaris and Maryland Elementary School in Bexley. He was indicted on two of the charges in April 2015 and was indicted again in July on the third charge after the 7-year-old and her family came forward to talk to authorities.
Wilson stood trial in February and, after 3½ days of testimony and two days of deliberating, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict. Krueger declared a mistrial and dismissed the jury.
Prosecutor Mark Sleeper said during his closing statements Friday afternoon that the case boiled down to credibility determination.
In the February trial, defense attorney Bradley Koffel criticized the allegations and investigation, equating it to a train that couldn’t be stopped before a trial. Koffel has criticized the lack of physical evidence and said the case essentially relied on the testimony of two children.
Sleeper admitted Friday that the case did not have much physical evidence but said many sexual abuse cases like this don’t because not all physical contact leaves behind DNA evidence.
The 7-year-old alleged victim and Wilson both took the stand during the trial to testify about the alleged 2015 incidents. The video interviews with both alleged victims conducted by forensic staff at the Child Advocacy Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital were also shown to the jury.
Wilson has flatly denied the allegations against him.
The jury was given their instructions by visiting Judge Roger B. Wilson, a retired judge from Champaign County who is no relation to the defendant. Judge Wilson filled in for Judge Everett Krueger during the trial.
F. Leon Wilson is also represented by Columbus attorney Eric Willison.
In the February trial, witnesses for the prosecution included the 7-year-old alleged victim, her parents, the parents of the 4-year-old alleged victim, the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office detective who handled the case, and forensic interviewers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who interviewed the two alleged victims.
Many of the same witnesses testified in this trial as well, including the parents of both victims, detectives and Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents who spoke to the jury about DNA evidence and what types of contact leave behind DNA.
The case was also prosecuted by assistant prosecutor Douglas Dumolt.
The jury included six men and six women.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.