UPDATE: Judge finds probable cause in Jetton assault case

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 | 8:01 p.m. CST

BENTON — The felony case against former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton will move forward after a judge Wednesday found probable cause following graphic testimony from the woman who said Jetton battered her during rough sex.

Judge T. Lynn Brown set arraignment for March 10 for Jetton, 42, who is free on bond. Jetton, a Republican who was House speaker from 2005 to 2008, declined comment following the hearing.

Jetton's attorney, Stephen Wilson, said the ruling was not unexpected because "it's a relatively low burden of proof to show probable cause." Prosecutor Paul Boyd declined comment after the hearing.

The alleged victim is a 35-year-old woman from Sikeston.

The woman testified that she knew Jetton as a child because both grew up in Charleston, Mo., and said she attended the Baptist church where Jetton's father was the preacher.

Both Jetton and the alleged victim are recently divorced. Late in 2009, the woman said she decided to reconnect with old friends on the social Web site Facebook. She said she was sexually abused as a child and had dialogue with Jetton about that. The dialogue grew into an online friendship.

Soon, the two were messaging online, text messaging and occasionally calling each other. The casual conversation became flirting, and by November, they agreed to meet for a sexual encounter, she said.

The woman said that because she sometimes has flashbacks of her sexual abuse, she and Jetton agreed to a "safe word" she could use if she was having a flashback and wanted the sex to stop. It was "green balloons."

"I said 'balloons' and he said 'green balloons' because green was his favorite color," she said.

The woman testified that Jetton showed up at her home Nov. 15 with two bottles of wine. They watched a football game on TV and she said she became groggy from the wine, though she wouldn't say if she thought Jetton spiked the drink.

The woman said Jetton suddenly pulled her pants down, then began hitting her on the head and face. She said she fell to the floor and he straddled her, using a belt to bind her wrists.

The woman said she blacked out and awoke with Jetton choking her. She blacked out again and awoke in the bedroom, with Jetton having sex with her, smacking her leg and demanding that she say "Yes, sir."

She said she passed out again. The next time she awoke, it was daylight and Jetton was up. Before he left, he came over to the bed, she said.

"He lightly touched my eye and said, 'You should have said green balloons,'" she said.

Boyd displayed several photos showing swelling and bruising on the woman's jaw, near her ear, around her left eye, on one thigh and on an ankle. She said her jaw was so injured that she couldn't chew for two weeks. The jaw still hurts and she is still getting treatment for it, she said.

Under cross-examination, Wilson cited text messages between Jetton and the woman, taken from Jetton's phone, and tried to show that the woman knew the sex would get rough.

The woman said she and Jetton sometimes had playful exchanges.

"Did you say, 'If it's not rough it is not fun?'" Wilson asked.

The woman didn't recall that message but said she never implied to Jetton she wanted to be hurt.

"I didn't even know people did this," she said.

Jetton is charged with assault but not with a sex crime.

First elected in 2000, he played a key role in the Republican takeover in Missouri in the 2002 elections. He endorsed "personal responsibility" and pledged to protect traditional family values after colleagues elected him speaker in 2005.

Jetton opened a political consulting business in 2004. The Missouri Ethics Commission ruled in 2006 that such an arrangement wasn't illegal, but it expressed "serious concerns" about the ability of a lawmaker-consultant to avoid legal violations and "the appearance of impropriety."

Jetton left the House because of term limits in 2008. He continued his consulting business but closed it after his arrest.

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