Rankin County Tax Assessor found not guilty on sexual battery, simple assault charges

Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 1:57 PM CDT
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RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Rankin County Tax Assessor John Sullivan has been found not guilty on three counts of sexual battery and one count of simple assault.

A grand jury originally indicted Sullivan last year for sexual battery of a physically helpless person; in this case, that was a 19-year-old woman who said she blacked out at his home on March 26, 2022.

Statute defines “physically helpless” as unconscious or unable to give consent. The jurors’ verdict indicates they did not believe that claim.

The jury of one woman and 11 men took just 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach a verdict Thursday.

Sullivan mouthed the words “thank you” to the jury after the verdict was read to the court.

During the three-day trial, prosecutors introduced evidence of Sullivan admitting to agents with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation that he grabbed the woman by the throat and threw her on his bed, which became the basis of the simple assault charge.

Rankin County Judge Steven Ratcliff excluded nearly all of the evidence surrounding a DUI arrest and several drunken statements by Sullivan to police that took place a few hours before the alleged sexual acts took place.

The arrest and subsequent remarks first came to light in a 3 On Your Side investigation last year, captured on the Byram Police Department’s body cameras, dash cameras and surveillance video.

Neither Sullivan nor prosecutors had any comment after the verdict, but Sullivan told WLBT before closing arguments Thursday to “get the verdict right.”

On Wednesday, Ratcliff cleared the courtroom so that a juror could be dismissed from the case. It’s not clear why that juror was removed.

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