PRINCETON — A trial for a Virginia man facing charges involving the alleged sexual assault and sexual abuse of four female juveniles was rescheduled Tuesday after his attorneys argued that they had not received important information from the prosecution.
Travis Edward Lambert, 32, of Radford, Va. was scheduled for a jury trial before Circuit Court Judge William Sadler. The potential jurors’ attendance was canceled Tuesday morning when the court learned that the trial might have to be delayed.
Lambert was arrested in September 2018 and charged with first-degree sexual assault, first-degree sexual abuse and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian.
An investigation began after an anonymous source called the Bluefield, Va., Police Department and stated that Lambert had sexually abused young girls. The four girls ranged from ages 5 to 10 years when the alleged abuse occurred. There was also a juvenile boy who did not say he had been abused, but said he had witnessed some of the alleged acts.
Detective Sgt./Special Investigator K.L. Adams, with the Bluefield Police Department and the Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, took Lambert into custody.
Attorney Ryan Donovan, who is representing Lambert, told Sadler at Tuesday’s hearing that he had received information late Monday evening about a Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) report concerning the alleged victims’ mother making a false statement to police in another case.
Donovan said the charges against Lambert were “about as serious as it gets,” and said that the state was not taking it obligation of discovery — making information available to the defense — seriously.
The defense filed a omnibus discovery motion when the case began, but “got a stack of papers maybe a quarter-inch thick,” Donovan said, holding his index finger and thumb about a quarter-inch apart. Donovan said he also had to write Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler repeatedly to get information.
One of the things that the state failed to disclose to the defense was that the mother of the alleged victims filed a false police report in another case and that two of the children had been urged to make false statements, Donovan said, adding that Sitler had told him that this case was not relevant.
“His response to me is to get it myself,” Donovan said. “Over and over again this is the case and this is simply not acceptable.”
Donovan also said the state had not provided information indicating that another man may have assaulted the juveniles. Due to not getting this information about the mother’s alleged false police statement in another case and that other men were visiting the victims’ home, the defense has not been able to prepare the case it should have had ready for the trial.
Donovan moved that Lambert’s indictment be dismissed, saying it was “the only remedy” after the “grave violations” made in the case.
Sitler said after the hearing that the defense had alleged that the state had not turned over records that it’s obliged to turn over.
“That’s far from the truth although the investigation of this case started in Bluefield, Va., every time we’ve been asked for something we’ve sought it out, tracked it down, turned it over,” Sitler said.
Tuesday’s trial was continued because the defense asserted there was something in some confidential DHHR records that was pertinent to the case, he said.
"I deny that that’s true and asked that the jury be summoned for a trial tomorrow. (The defense) objected. The trial had been reset for Aug. 21 and there’s a decision conference on July 10 ,” Sitler said.
The court will consider the defense’s motion to dismiss at the July hearing.
"There is an assertion that after the allegations against Lambert were reported to law enforcement in Tazewell County, the victims’ mother was involved in another false swearing allegation in a completely unrelated matter,” Sitler said.
Sitler said this case of false swearing occurred months after allegations against Lambert “came to light.” The mother was charged, but was not convicted of anything. No charges were filed related to any statements made by the children.
Lambert is being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.