Bond appeal denied in child rape case

James Lutz

WOODSTOCK — Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp Wednesday denied a defense attorney’s  motion for bond for a Fort Valley man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

James Allen Lutz’s attorney, David Downes, argued for bond on “humanitarian grounds” because Lutz’s mother is ill and Lutz holds the power of attorney, meaning he needs to be able to communicate with the medical professionals caring for her, and is unable to do that from jail.

Downes had filed a motion days before the scheduled jury trial – which resulted in a mistrial because there weren’t enough jurors – because Lutz’s mother had a stroke and Downes believed that she would not be able to testify. He withdrew that motion when he learned that there was audio recording from jail phone conversations between Lutz and his mother that suggested her health was not as bad as Downes previously thought.

On Wednesday, Downes said that he had originally filed that motion because he thought testifying would be “counterproductive to her health.” He added that Lutz has been incarcerated for over a year, even though he has repeatedly waived his speedy trial rights between hearings, and that Lutz has been a resident of the county his entire life, and would not have any contact with the victim in any way. Downes asked the court to consider house arrest.

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued that Lutz is a major flight-risk because he is facing two life sentences for the charges. He added that Lutz confessed to the crimes to an investigator. Campola said that Lutz is a risk to the community and to himself “no matter how many restrictions the court puts on him.”

Downes disputed the “characterization” of the confession, and said that “it was involuntary;” it’s unclear if Downes was referring to the confession or the intercourse with the 12-year-old girl. Downes followed by saying Lutz repeatedly denied the girl’s advances. He also emphasized that the girl was 12 years and 11 months old, one month shy of being 13, where the crime would be charged differently and less severely.

Hupp denied the motion for bond, but added that he will order the jail to facilitate communication between Lutz and his mother’s health providers. Hupp added that he would call the superintendent himself to ensure that his order is being followed.

The trial is still set for Aug. 12 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court, and will be tried by Circuit Judge Clark Ritchie.