The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a Vinton man in a high-profile sexual abuse case. James Bentley was convicted of second-degree sexual abuse for abuse of Jetsetta Gage that began in 2003.
Gage was not able to testify as she had been murdered. Bentley’s brother Roger was found guilty of her murder and is serving a life sentence. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled a taped interview with Gage could not be used at James Bentley’s trial. Prosecutors used testimony from a psychologist who said Gage told her she had been sexually abused by Bentley as the psychologist treated the girl following the assault.
Prosecutors also used testimony from Gage’s grandmother who was present during the treatment by the psychologist and heard the statements. The grandmother also testified that Gage told her she had been sexually abused. James Bentley appealed the sexual abuse conviction saying the testimony from the psychologist and the grandmother were “hearsay” evidence and not admissible in court.
The appeals court ruled that the statement’s by Gage about her abuse were made during her treatment and fall under the “medical diagnosis and treatment” exception to the hearsay rule. Bentley did appeal one other aspect of his case, the sentence of lifetime parole. The appeals court overturned that part of the sentence, as it said Bentley’s crime happened before the special sentence was created by law.
James Bentley was already serving a 100-year sentence on child pornography charges when he was found guilty of the sexual abuse.
Read the entire opinion here: Bentley Appeal PDF