Former Bethany prof gets 5 years

ST. CLAIRSVILLE Richard Thomas Rushton, 63, appeared before Judge Jennifer L. Sargus in Belmont County Common Pleas Court Monday and was sentenced in two cases of sexual battery.

Rushton, 329 High St., Flushing, will serve five years.

In mid-October he entered an Alford plea and was found guilty. An Alford plea occurs in cases where a defendant claims innocence but recognizes that sufficient evidence for a conviction exists.

He had faced two counts of rape of a child younger than 10, felonies of the first degree occurring 1999. A conviction on either count carries a possibility of life imprisonment. He was also accused of gross sexual imposition. During the hearing, Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said it was necessary to dismiss these charges.

Rushton displayed no emotion during the sentencing and chose not to make a statement.

Berhalter read a statement from a victim indicating the impact of Rushton’s crimes. He added that the victims would see that they were believed, that action was taken and the perpetrator held accountable.

“In order for the court to adopt the recommended and agreed to sentence the court must be satisfied that this sentence will work justice,” said Sargus, adding that the victim has seen Rushton publicly admit his guilt and face repercussions.

Charges were filed in Belmont County Court November of 2010. Rushton was indicted in. It has been almost a year since he was found in Italy after failing to keep his court date. The prosecutor’s office has since worked with the Italian legal system to extradite him.

Rushton had worked as a professor at Bethany College – specifically as an assistant professor of education and chairman of the Department of Education.

“The investigation in that case didn’t begin in Belmont County. It began in another county, and based upon errors they made it made it difficult to proceed with the entire case. However, we have two very brave and courageous victims who were able to help us proceed with the remaining counts, and based upon them, we were able to hold him accountable and make sure there’d be no other victims,” said Berhalter.

“I can’t imagine the amount of courage it takes to come forward and do the right thing, and today that young victim got to see what her courage was able to do.”

DeFrank can be reached at