A local jury was handed the case of Former Washington County Commissioner and Solid Waste District Manager Albert “Mike” Goering about 3:00p this afternoon and deliberated only about 4 hours before reaching a verdict. The Jury, made up a majority of men, returned guilty verdicts on all six counts of sexual misconduct with a minor.
Goering was returned to the Washington County Circuit Courtroom about 7:15p where he awaited his verdict, which came about 15 minutes later. The alleged acts involving a family friend who was under the age of 16, allegedly occurred in February 2013 on Goering’s Maple Syrup farm on Garrison Hollow Road.
The jury returned after approximately four hours of deliberation and foreman Benjamin Martin handed special judge from Harrison County Circuit Court John Evans six guilty verdicts.
Goering sat emotionless in the courtroom as the six guilty verdicts were read. Evans received assurance that the jurors approved of the verdict then accepted the charges for the state.
A pre-sentencing hearing was scheduled for May 2 at 9a but could re-scheduled after Dove said he has a serious conflict with that date.
Goering was arrested in March 2013 on five counts of sexual misconduct with a minor, and one count of attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, all Class B felonies.
The sheriff’s department received a complaint of sexual misconduct with a minor from a juvenile and her family on March 5. The victim was a family friend and was under the age of 16.
Deputy Jimmy Strange of the Washington County Sheriff’s Department was assigned to investigate and the Division of Child Services was informed of the allegation. A 12-day investigation resulted in information being obtained that led to the filing of charges.
Testimony continued today and attorneys entered their final arguments before handing the case to the jury before 3p.
A special prosecutor, Sonia Leerkamp from Hamilton County, argued the state’s case.
The line of defense pursued by Goering’s attorney, Mark Dove, was that he did not know the young lady was under the age of 16. Leerkamp was able to argue successfully that Goering was well aware of the young lady’s age. Leerkamp called a number of witnesses who were well acquainted with the minor and who verified the girl was under age 16 when the acts occurred.
After the verdict was read, Evans asked Dove if he had any objections to the ruling and he said not at this time.
Witnesses earlier in the week were questioned about the relationship between Goering and the minor and her family. According to Leane Whitaker, Goering’s ex-wife and who took the stand Wednesday afternoon, the two families first became acquainted in 1988, when the young lady’s mother was hired to help Whitaker with housework. The minor and members of her family also helped with the Maple Syrup Festival at the farm.
Both the victim and her mother were called to the witness box Wednesday as were several members of Goering’s family.
Questioning by both Dove and Leerkamp focused on the time frame of the events and how the relationship grew from a friendship into something more intimate.
Goering served as Washington County commissioner from 2001-09, and running on the Republican ticket. He also previously served as county engineer and was the county’s solid waste director at the time of his arrest. He was suspended from that position, without pay, pending the outcome of the legal process.
The Goering Maple Syrup farm was the largest producer of maple syrup in the state and continues to host a maple syrup festival, which attracts thousands to the Eastern Washington County farm.