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February 25, 2013

Court upholds sexual assault conviction

ATHENS — The Twelfth Court of Appeals in Tyler last week affirmed Jeffrey Ross Seery’s January 2011 sexual assault convictions.

Seery was convicted on three counts of sexual assault and sentenced to the maximum  of 20 years in prison on each count by a Henderson County jury. After the sentencing, 392nd District Court Judge Carter Tarrance ordered that the sentences run consecutively.  

Seery appealed his convictions, claiming certain testimony should not have been heard by the jury and that some of his evidence was kept from the panel. Henderson County District Attorney Scott McKee and assistant district attorney Nancy Rumor prosecuted the weeklong case.

Seery was arrested on Sept. 27, 2009, by Henderson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responding to a call reporting that a 14-year-old girl had been assaulted at a residence on State Highway 31 near Athens. The case was then assigned to Investigator Ceresa Ballard, who specialized in crimes against children. Ballard was assisted in the investigation by Captain Bryan Tower, also of the Henderson County Sherriff’s Office.  

The officers arrested Seery at the scene on an existing warrant and transported him to the Henderson County Jail.

HCSO reports state authorities found two hand grenades and a small amount of marijuana at the residence. Local officers notified the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Tyler, which took possession of the grenades.

Evidence gathered during the search of the residence was presented to Precinct 6 Justice of the Peace Milton Adams, who issued a warrant for Seery’s arrest. Officers executed the sexual assault warrant on Seery while he was still in custody on the escape charge.

During the trial, the jury heard testimony from the victim who emotionally detailed her relationship with Seery and described how he groomed her from a young age to eventually engage in sexual acts with him.  

Other witnesses testified Seery claimed to be a high-ranking special-forces paratrooper who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stre-ss Syndrome — even going as far as having a going-away party for him because he claimed that he was about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

McKee, a former paratrooper and Iraq War veteran, rebutted Seery’s claims by introducing Seery’s military record which indicated he was never in combat and was discharged as a private from the military for various infractions.  

The state also introduced evidence to the jury that Seery had fooled many people into believing his military stories and that he used this ruse to separate his victim from her mother.

“As the legal referee in a trial, the trial judge has a legal duty to decide which evidence is lawfully admissible and which is not,” Mckee said.

McKee indicated that in most cases, in evaluating an appeal, the law presumes that the trial judge is in the best position to determine what evidence is admissible and what is not.  “We have complete faith that the judge was correct on his rulings and the Court of Appeals decision affirms this,” he added.

Seery can still petition the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review the decision.

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