The Jasper County prosecutor's office dismissed a child molestation charge Thursday that a Joplin man was facing in a case that had been scheduled to go to trial this week.
Assistant Prosecutor Taylor Haas said the charge against Ryan N. Williamson, 40, was being dismissed at this time because of a need for additional investigation of the suspected molestation of a 12-year-old girl.
Williamson was charged with third-degree child molestation in 2018 after a Joplin Police Department investigation, and the case was set for a bench trial this week before Judge Gayle Crane in Jasper County Circuit Court. The defendant decided at the last moment against waiving his right to a jury trial; the court scheduled a Thursday jury trial, which was scuttled by the prosecution's decision to dismiss the charge.
The girl, who is now 13, testified at a preliminary hearing in February of this year that she went to an apartment with her brother in June 2018 to spend the night with friends. She was playing video games with her friends in the living room when the defendant gave her something to drink, she told the court. She said he touched her leg and suggested she go into into a bedroom with him.
She testified that she did not do what he asked but later was lying on a bed in a bedroom of the apartment with other girls present when Williamson whispered in her ear to come out to the living room with him. He then grasped her foot and made her inappropriately touch him with it, she said. She told the court that she tried to move away from him on the bed and told the other girls that she was scared before getting her brother and one of the other girls and leaving the apartment.
Defense attorney Elizabeth Turner elicited testimony under cross-examination of the girl that police had tested her to see if she had been given any alcohol or drugs and that the tests proved negative. She also acknowledged that it was after midnight at the time of the alleged offense and that she was tired. On closer questioning by Turner, she also said she did not recall with any certainty if her foot actually touched him through his clothing.
Turner argued at the preliminary hearing that there was no evidence that any illegal contact actually took place, nor any evidence that her client sought sexual gratification through anything he did. Haas argued that his intent to gratify himself sexually was "self-evident."