Judge denies furlough in child sex case

James Lutz

WOODSTOCK — Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp denied a furlough request on Wednesday for a Fort Valley man accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.

James Allen Lutz did not appear in court Wednesday, but his attorney, David Downes, argued in favor of allowing Lutz a few hours to attend his mother’s funeral this week under deputy arrest, with some additional time for Lutz to change in and out of his prison uniform. Downes added that Lutz would be personally financially responsible for the deputy’s time, and that Lutz is his mother’s only child.

The case has had multiple defense motions filed that involve the health condition of Lutz’s mother, including one to postpone the trial and another for Lutz to be released on bond to handle medical documentation involving her hospital stay as he held her power of attorney.

The former was withdrawn when evidence showed that her condition after having a reported stroke was not as grave as the defense believed it to be, and the latter was denied but with a stipulation that Lutz be given special permission to handle any documents and be able to communicate with the medical professionals caring for his mother.

Hupp noted that he routinely denies furlough requests and did not want to set a precedent by granting this one.

“I am really not a hard-hearted man,” Hupp said. “As hard as it is, I deny your motion.”

Downes then argued for the jury trial to be postponed because one of his witnesses would be unavailable at the newly scheduled date — which was set after a mistrial was declared on June 16 because there were not enough jurors — and that Lutz is not in a proper mental condition to handle a jury trial on Aug. 11.

“I don’t think my client can be 100 percent based on the recency of his mother’s death,” Downes said.

Circuit Judge Clark Ritchie tried the case originally, and Downes indicated that he would like Ritchie to try the case on the new date. A hearing has been set for Aug. 2 to determine a new trial date based on Ritchie’s availability.