Man accused of sex assault, child porn challenges search
BRENTWOOD - A police search that turned up a handgun sealed in a plastic bag is having a wider impact for a Chester man now facing charges of possessing child pornography and sexually assaulting a young girl in the 1990s.
Public defenders for Gary Britton, 68, argued in court on Thursday that they should be able to again challenge a search by Chester police because new charges were brought against their client last month.
Judge N. William Delker said his decision concluding that Chester police had a legal right to seize the handgun found at Britton's apartment in September 2011 hours after he was evicted will also apply to his future trials.
Public defender Julia Nye argued on Thursday that Britton has a constitutional right to challenge the validity of the search warrant again because the first court filing focused on the seizure of the gun.
The sexual assault and child pornography charges could essentially result in Britton spending the rest of his life behind bars if he is convicted by jury.
"The seriousness of the case is vastly different than the possession of a weapon (charge)," Nye said.
Chester police appeared in court ready to testify in case Delker sided with the defense. Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton argued that there was no factual difference to be challenged among the cases.
"If we were to have a hearing today, the testimony would be exactly the same from the police officers and the landlord," Bolton said.
Britton, convicted of aggravated felonious sexual assault in 1983, has been in jail more than a year and a half as charges against him continue to stack up. He was arrested on Sept. 22, 2011, for failure to register as a sex offender. As he was being charged in that case, he was evicted from his apartment, prompting his landlords to go through his belongings and a home computer.
One of his landlords stumbled upon a collection of child pornography and promptly called police, according to court testimony.
Chester Police Chief William Burke, who appeared in court on Thursday, found the handgun above a mirror dresser sealed in a plastic bag. Nye had challenged whether police could seize the gun because they had initially responded to the discovery of child pornography.
An examination of the computer yielded information about the sexual assault that dated back to 1991, along with the child pornography collection, according to prosecutors.
In all, Britton faces two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault, and 15 counts of possession of child sexual abuse images. Police say the sexual assaults occurred between 1991 and 1995, beginning when the girl was age 9.
He is scheduled for trial the week of April 1.