Chesterfield father Robert Dodd gets 79-year sentence on child sex abuse charges

Posted at 12:21 PM, Mar 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-01 13:51:33-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. – A former Chesterfield Baseball Club coach convicted of sexually abusing his adopted son was sentenced to 79 years in prison during a Tuesday morning court hearing. The judge denied bond for Robert Dodd, 50, pending Dodd's appeal. In court, Dodd maintained his innocence. Outside of court, Dodd's family said they were "very upset" by the sentencing and called it a "major injustice."

Dodd had been tried multiple times on allegations of child abuse. He was acquitted three times and found guilty once. He was found guilty in November 2014 of sexually abusing his stepson in the 1990s. His stepson was seven years old at the time. The abuse continued, according to testimony, until the child was 14 years old. At that time, the teenager was able to physically stop his stepfather. The victim is now in his late-20s.

The jury originally recommended Dodd spend 99 years in prison after they convicted him on three counts of indecent liberties with a minor by custodian, three counts of aggravated sexual battery, and three counts of sodomy.

Robert Dodd

Robert Dodd

On Tuesday in court Judge Walter Stout denied all motions presented by defense attorney Craig Cooley, including one for mistrial. The defense argued that a juror had a friendship with a witness, who was cross-examined by the defense.

Before Judge Walter Stout made his decision, Dodd spoke on his own behalf. He thanked the judge for being fair, he said his family appreciated how Stout handled the case, and he professed his innocence.  He also asked the judge to keep in mind his daughters.

One of Dodd's brothers called the sentence an injustice.

"The laws have no statute of limitations, how can you protect yourself against something that somebody said you did 30 years ago," said the man who would only identify himself as one of Dodd's brothers.

One of the young women who previously made accusations against Dodd was at the courtroom.

"The best feeling in my life," Sarah Fowler said as she watched Dodd taken away.

She said it's been a long road, but she's pleased with Dodd's sentence.

"It has taken 813 days in the court system to get to today, and for myself, almost that long to get the courage to come forward to police, imagine being in our shoes," Fowler said.

Dodd's attorney plans to appeal the judge's decision on Wednesday, but Stout denied Dodd's request for bond pending appeal.

Though convicted in November, Dodd had been out on bond, a decision made by Judge Stout that CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone called “unusual.”

Family members of the victim, and even a juror, previously told WTVR CBS 6 that they were outraged by that ruling.

“I feel he was a threat,” a juror, who was scared for her safety, said in a 2014 interview. “It was our duty to the community… to keep him off the street.”

“I`m very upset, a judge who I thought was very fair and I really liked, I can`t understand how he could let somebody out there that could possibly hurt our community,” the juror added.

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone explained why that decision was unusual.

“The charges, to begin with, are considered violent in nature,” Stone said. “So there’s a presumption against bond even at the outset of all this.”

“Once you’re found guilty though, a judge normally remands custody to the sheriff because the flight risk goes up dramatically,” he added.

In December a prosecutor reached out to family members of the victim, writing about “some events that had occurred” while Dodd was on bond, that were considered “inappropriate” and that were discussed at a hearing.

The email also stated that Judge Stout appeared upset at the hearing, but found Dodd had not '”technically” violated the conditions of his bond. At that point, Stout opted to put Dodd on house arrest instead of jail, a decision that upset the alleged victim`s family, who spoke to WTVR CBS 6 off camera.

The prosecutor`s motion would detail exactly what Dodd had done, but when WTVR CBS 6 attempted to obtain the document from the Chesterfield courthouse, it had been sealed by the judge.

“Normally the reason a judge would seal the court records and institute a gag order is so a jury pool does not get tainted by something that comes out in the media,” Stone said.

“The judge has discretion to seal it…we don`t know what the circumstances are at this point,” he added.

Both the judge and prosecutor declined to comment on the case.

Dodd still has two additional cases of a similar nature pending for trial, according to the Chesterfield County Commonwealth's Attorney's Office.

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