ST. CLAIRSVILLE The case against Richard Jeffrey Hart will move forward despite numerous delays caused by his medical needs in the aftermath of his alleged suicide attempt.
Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Fregiato held a status conference regarding the matter Thursday. Hart failed to appear, but his attorney, James Burdon of Akron, had been retained and was present. Assistant Prosecutor Helen Yonak represented the state.
His pre-trial was set for Jan. 21 with trial set for Feb. 19. Speedy trial was waived from this day forward.
Hart, 49, of Belmont, is charged with 10 counts of first degree child rape. The first count carries a sentence of life imprisonment. It is alleged that the crimes took place during a period of years beginning in the early 1990s.
He was arrested March 23, 2012, and bonded out in 24 hours on a $200,000 bond. On March 26, he jumped from the Interstate70 overpass. He is currently being treated at the Woodsfield Care Center.
Additional alleged child victims recently have come forward to make allegations against Hart.
Yonak noted that Hart had been held in contempt of court for failing to retain an attorney until recently
During the hearing, Fregiato noted Hart was ordered to appear and revoked his bond. Burdon asked the judge to consider that Hart's left leg was amputated below the knee in July, and he remains completely bedridden.
"A medical condition is not a defense to a criminal charge," Fregiato said. "Especially 10 counts of felony one and especially a self-administered medical condition."
Fregiato issued a warrant for Hart's arrest, to be put in effect in one week if Hart does not arrange transportation to the jail. The care center was ordered to provide a medical report in order to coordinate with the jail nurse so Hart's needs can be seen to. Further hearings on this matter can be held at the jail if necessary.
"My only hesitation is the facilities in the Belmont County Jail," Fregiato said, stressing his determination to see the case proceed.
Afterward, Yonak said the state intended Hart to be responsible for his medical costs.
"Obviously it's going to be very costly for the taxpayers of Belmont County and the sheriff's department. We're going to file with the court to have Mr. Hart be responsible for his own medical needs," she said.
DeFrank can be reached at email@example.com.