From Local 3 News: UPDATE: A McMinn County woman accused of child sex crimes pleaded guilty on Monday during a court hearing. Melissa
From Local 3 News: UPDATE: A McMinn County woman accused of child sex crimes pleaded guilty on Monday during a court hearing.
Melissa Blair was accused of having sexual relations with male students at McMinn Central High School and faced 44 charges, including Aggravated Statutory Rape and Patronizing Prostitution.
On Monday, Blair gave up her right for a trial by entering a guilty plea and accepting a 22-year sentence behind bars.
PREVIOUS STORY: A McMinn County woman charged with sex crimes against minors appeared in court Monday, October 2nd.
Melissa Blair is accused of having sexual relations with male students at McMinn Central High School.
She faces 44 charges including Aggravated Statutory Rape and Patronizing Prostitution.
A change of venue was requested but denied by Judge Andrew Freiber, Defense attorney Robert Kurtz, who is representing Blair, said the attention of Blair’s case could make it more difficult to select from pool of jurors.
Freiberg admitted pre-trial publicity could become a problem, and set Blair’s next hearing for Nov. 6 at 1:30pm
PREVIOUS STORY: A local woman charged with having inappropriate sexual relationships with at least 18 McMinn Central High School students will be tried in her hometown, at least for now.
Judge Andrew Freiberg temporarily denied Melissa Blair’s change of venue request, leaving open the possibility of revisiting the request if pre-trial publicity does appear to interfere with the pool of jurors.
“This story is embedded deeply in this community,” said Robert Kurtz, who is representing Blair in her trial. “Going forward, media coverage will only increase as we get into substantive motions.”
Kurtz asked for the change of venue Friday, saying the attention to Blair’s case could make it more difficult to select from a pool of jurors.
“We’re trying to make a determination of what’s in a juror’s mind, when we don’t even know who the juror is,” said Shari Tayloe, deputy assistant district attorney.
Blair is facing 44 charges, including aggravated statutory rape and patronizing prostitution. Prosecutors are moving to consolidate all 18 alleged victims into one trial. That motion will be heard in April.
Police accuse Blair of arranging sexual meetings with minors via social media and trading items for sexual encounters.
She was indicted on two separate occasions this year on the following counts:
- Solicitation of a Minor (4 counts)
- Soliciting Sexual Exploitation of a Minor by Electronic Means (4 counts)
- Patronizing Prostitution (9 counts)
- Aggravated Statutory Rape (24 counts)
- Sexual Exploitation of a Minor (1 count)
- Exploitation of a Minor by Electronic Means (1 count)
- Forfeiture of Personal Property (1 count)
Blair sat through several hearings before hers in a courtroom Friday. She appeared to give Local 3 News’ camera the finger on more than one occasion.
“This is clearly the most publicized case I have handled,” said Judge Andrew Freiberg, who admitted pre-trial publicity could become a problem in later proceedings.
Freiberg ultimately denied the request, saying attorneys should see what knowledge potential jurors have about the case first.
“‘What would be the harm in just bringing a traditional McMinn County jury and seeing ‘by a show of hands, how many of you know Melissa Blair?'” Freiberg asked of Blair’s lawyer.
Blair has been banned from McMinn County School properties.
She is due back in court on April 14. Her trial is scheduled to begin on August 10.