Former school official convicted on three sex-crime felonies
BY BILL BRAUN World Staff Writer
Saturday, September 01, 2012
9/01/12 at 7:19 AM
Former Tulsa Public Schools teacher and administrator Robert Yerton Jr. was taken out of a courtroom on a gurney early Friday after a trial that leaves him facing prison sentences totaling 27 years.
A Tulsa County jury convicted Yerton, 43, of three felonies and acquitted him of two other felony counts.
The jury deliberated for about 12 hours and announced that it had reached a verdict about 2 a.m. Friday.
Earlier, the jury had sent a note to District Judge William Kellough, inquiring about whether sentences on the counts would run concurrently or consecutively.
That particular inquiry from a jury is often a harbinger of upcoming guilty verdicts.
When jurors entered Kellough's courtroom to reveal their verdicts, Yerton appeared to be in distress in a gallery seating area.
He was not at the defense table and did not stand for the verdict or for the jury's entrance into the courtroom, which is customary.
Before revealing the verdict, Kellough advised jurors that Yerton had become ill and that emergency medical personnel had been contacted. Kellough said then that court officials did not know what was wrong with Yerton but that he would be taken to a hospital.
After the trial outcome was announced, Yerton was removed from the courtroom on a gurney.
A Tulsa Jail website shows that he was booked into the jail at 3:51 a.m. and is now being held without bail.
Yerton, of Tulsa, had been free since he posted bond in May 2010.
He stood trial on three counts of lewd molestation and two counts of child sexual abuse.
Jurors found him guilty of both sex-abuse counts, which involved a now-20-year-old relative of the defendant's. Yerton was alleged to have abused him between 2003 and 2009, records show.
He incurred a 12-year sentence on each of those two counts.
Yerton was charged with molesting two boys, ages 6 and 8, on separate days in 2009 at Skelly Elementary School, 2940 S. 90th East Ave., where he was an assistant principal at the time of his arrest in 2010.
Yerton was found guilty of molesting the 8-year-old and received a three-year sentence for that crime. He was found not guilty of the molestation count involving the 6-year-old.
Yerton also was found not guilty of a charge of molesting a 7-year-old boy more than 10 years ago at Disney Elementary School, 11702 E. 25th St., when he taught there.
Kellough instructed jurors that the molestation and sex-abuse charges require a person to serve 85 percent of a prison sentence before becoming eligible for parole or release.
Assistant District Attorney Sarah McAmis said she will recommend that the three sentences run consecutively, totaling 27 years in prison, when Kellough formally sentences Yerton on Oct. 11.
Yerton was active in his court defense and more mobile in the courtroom than most Tulsa County criminal defendants.
He was allowed to gather along with the lawyers for bench conferences with the judge, which is not a common practice here.
News reports about allegations against Yerton surfaced in April 2010. He was arrested and charged in May 2010, and the school board accepted his resignation in June 2010.
Shortly after Yerton's arrest, the district acknowledged a six-month lag between when then-counselor Myrtha Mikel first reported allegations of "inappropriate touching of male students" by Yerton to Principal Kathryn Ackley and when administrators notified Tulsa police.
The district explained that the initial report in October 2009 went no further because the allegations "did not involve charges of criminal conduct or child abuse."
During a closing argument Thursday, McAmis said Yerton "has gotten away with this for so long" and was responsible for a lot of destruction and "loss of innocence."
Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll told jurors that "I believe Mr. Yerton proved beyond a reasonable doubt - which he doesn't have to do - that he's innocent."
The prosecution, not the defense, has the legal burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Yerton testified during the trial and denied allegations that he had improperly touched any of the accusers.
Original Print Headline: Jury gives ex-school official a split decision
Bill Braun 918-581-8455
Former Tulsa school administrator Robert Yerton Jr.is wheeled out of a courtroom on a gurney after beingconvicted of molestation and child sex-abuse charges earlyFriday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Defense attorney Richard O’Carroll talks to reporters at theTulsa County Courthouse early Friday after a jury convicted hisclient, former Tulsa school administrator Robert Yerton Jr., oftwo counts of child sexual abuse and one count of lewd molestationand acquitted him of two other molestation counts. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Former Tulsa school administrator Robert Yerton Jr. talks tohis wife, Kimberly Yerton, as he is taken away on a gurney afterbeing convicted of sex crimes against children early Friday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World