Former Educator Found Guilty of Sexual Battery

Flushing resident Richard Thomas Rushton was convicted of two counts of sexual battery this week.

Rushton, 63, of 329 High St., appeared before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Sargus on Monday and entered an Alford plea. Sentencing was set for Nov. 19.

An Alford plea occurs in cases where a defendant claims innocence but recognizes that sufficient evidence for a conviction exists.

Rushton had faced two counts of rape of a child younger than 10 for offenses occurring in 1999. He was also accused of gross sexual imposition. During the hearing, Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said it was necessary to dismiss these charges.

“This matter was initially investigated by another county. It has been discovered that there are significant problems in how that evidence was gathered in that initial investigation. While in the state’s view it doesn’t affect our belief in the culpability of this defendant, it affects our ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant’s guilt in those counts,” he said.

On the second-degree felony counts of sexual battery, Rushton faces a maximum of 16 years.

Charges were filed in November 2010 but Rushton traveled to Italy, failing to keep a court date. The prosecutor’s office worked with the Italian legal system to extradite him.

Rushton had worked as an assistant professor of education and chairman of the Department of Education at Bethany College. He was also director of teacher preparation programs and faculty adviser for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He had been a teacher for 20 years.