Chester man backs away from plea deal, wants trial in sex-assault case
BRENTWOOD - A Chester sex offender who agreed to plead guilty last week to charges that he sexually assaulted a girl during the 1990s backed away from a plea deal Wednesday and told a judge he wants to go on trial.
Gary Britton, 61, made a brief court appearance Wednesday morning, upending what was expected to bring a close to one of three cases he has pending in Rockingham County Superior Court.
Judge N. William Delker set a May 20 trial date and informed Britton he will not be allowed to try to negotiate another deal with county prosecutors. Britton is facing two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault for allegedly abusing the girl between 1991 and 1995.
The alleged assaults began when the girl was 9 years old, prosecutors said. Britton also faces separate cases for possessing child pornography and being a felon in possession of a weapon.
The cases against Britton began to emerge shortly after his arrest on Sept. 22, 2011, when he was charged with failing to register as a sex offender. He was being evicted from his apartment on the same day as his arrest. A search of his apartment by his landlords led to the discovery of child pornography on his computer, according to court testimony.
Police Chief William Burke also found a handgun sealed in a plastic bag on top of a dresser. Britton, who was convicted of aggravated felonious sexual assault in 1983, was barred from owning a firearm because he is a felon.
The computer search also turned up evidence that led to Britton being indicted in the sexual-assault case.
Delker, the judge, ruled last week that Britton would not be able to further challenge the legality of police searching his apartment after losing a similar bid in his pending gun case. The decision prevented defense lawyers from a chance to have evidence in the case thrown out prior to trial.
Britton, who has been in jail since September 2011, is essentially facing life in prison if he is convicted in the three cases.