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Coaldale man granted new trial in sexual assault case

Published October 27. 2010 05:00PM

Karl A. Otto, of 247 E. Moser Avenue, Coaldale, was granted a new trial by Schuylkill County President Judge Willliam E. Baldwin in a ruling made recently. The judge ruled in his appeal Otto established ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and his conviction is vacated and a new trial granted.

Otto was found guilty by a jury in March 2009 of two counts each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, indecent assault on a person under age 13 years, and one count each of indecent exposure and endangering the welfare of a child.

He was given consecutive 10 to 30 year sentences on each of the counts, and a concurrent three to 12 month sentence for indecent exposure and a concurrent one to two year sentence for endangering the welfare of a child. Following a hearing in July 2009, Otto was determined to be a sexually violent predator and ordered to register as a sex offender for the balance of his life.

After the trial he obtained new counsel who filed an appeal from the conviction. The court held a hearing on the petition in August. The court ruled counsel did not personally interview or prep defense witnesses before they testified; that his contact with the defendant was infrequent and non-existent during the seven months immediately preceeding jury selection; that he did not cross-examine certain witnesses regarding inconsistencies in their testimony; and failed to stress the inconsistent testimony to the jurors during his closing argument

The explanation to court was that to pursue competency challenge they would have needed an expert, the cost for which was beyond the limits of their trial budget. The Commonwealth argued that their reasoning constitutes a reasonable basis for counsel's decision not to pursue the issue.

The court disagreed and ruled Otto had been prejudiced by his trial counsel's failure and his right to effective representation had been compromised and is entitled to a new trial.

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