Jury finds Anaconda commissioner guilty of sexual assault of child

2013-04-26T08:00:00Z 2013-07-03T07:17:06Z Jury finds Anaconda commissioner guilty of sexual assault of childBy JOHN GRANT EMEIGH Montana Standard The Billings Gazette
April 26, 2013 8:00 am  • 

ANACONDA — A jury found an Anaconda commissioner guilty Thursday evening of having sexual contact with a child.

The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before finding Robert Pierce guilty of felony sexual intercourse without consent and sexual assault. Judge Brad Newman ordered that Pierce be taken into police custody after the hearing.

The judge will set a sentencing date for Pierce after a pre-sentence investigation is conducted.

The case went to the jury just after 3 p.m. in Anaconda District Court after four days of testimony in which Pierce, 52, is accused of having inappropriate contact with a girl.

Charging documents allege Pierce had lewd contact with the juvenile in April 2006 and April 2008. Prosecutors claim he touched her inappropriately the first time when she was 9 at his home in Opportunity. The child didn’t tell her mother until 2012 after a Super Bowl party.

Assistant Attorney Generals Dan Guzynski and Mary Cochenour prosecuted the case against Pierce. They claimed it took the victim four years to muster the courage to tell her mother about the crimes.

Pierce, who pleaded not guilty to the charges in March, was represented by attorney Victor Bunitsky. Bunitsky tried to argue that the victim was coerced into lying about the claims of sexual assault.

Pierce was arrested in August after a six-month investigation into the allegations by the state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation.

Pierce represents District 4 on the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Council of Commissioners. According to the county website, he is an insurance agent with Farmers’ Insurance, with an office in Butte.

Pierce is serving his second term as commissioner, but the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County charter says that the position must be vacated “upon the conviction of a felony by a court of competent jurisdiction,’’ Chief Executive Connie Ternes-Daniels said Thursday evening.

She said the commission will follow a process outlined in the charter to appoint someone to fill out the remainder of the term. Pierce’s term is slated to expire in December 2014.

Ternes-Daniels said no timeline has been set for the process.

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