Jurors con­vict man of child rape

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> A day after he col­lapsed onto the court­room floor while de­liv­er­ing his clos­ing ar­gu­ment to a jury, a Pottstown man was con­victed of rap­ing an 11-year-old girl two decades ago.

Louis Henry Branch, 51, of the 300 block of North York Street, bowed his head on Fri­day as a Mont­gomery County jury con­victed him of felony charges of rape of a child un­der 13 and ag­gra­vated in­de­cent as­sault of a child un­der 13 in con­nec­tion with mul­ti­ple in­ci­dents that oc­curred in Pottstown be­tween 1996 and 1997.

The jury of nine men and three women de­lib­er­ated about 90 min­utes be­fore reach­ing the ver­dict after hear­ing tes­ti­mony dur­ing a

three-day trial.

Judge Thomas C. Branca de­ferred sen­tenc­ing so that court of­fi­cials can com­plete a back­ground in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port about Branch, in­clud­ing a psy­cho­sex­ual risk as­sess­ment and a men­tal health eval­u­a­tion.

Branch, who re­mains in the county jail with­out bail pend­ing sen­tenc­ing, faces a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of 30 to 60 years in prison on the charges. How­ever, state sen­tenc­ing guide­lines could al­low for a lesser sen­tence. The judge set a Feb. 6, 2019, sen­tenc­ing date.

“We will be seek­ing as long a state sen­tence as is ap­pli­ca­ble un­der the law. We in­tend to ask for a sen­tence that re­flects the se­ri­ous­ness of the crimes that he com­mit­ted against this young wo­man all those years ago and that she’s

had to live with for a long time,” said county As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Matthew Brit­ten­burg, who pros­e­cuted the case.

The vic­tim, now an adult wo­man, wept in court as the first guilty ver­dict was an­nounced and was con­soled by her friends and rel­a­tives.

As he was es­corted from the court­room by sher­iff’s deputies Branch, who rep­re­sented him­self at the trial, ig­nored a re­porter’s ques­tions and did not re­act to the ver­dict.

Branch’s exit from the court­room on Fri­day was in stark con­trast to the way he left a day ear­lier.

On Thurs­day, Branch left the court­room with the help of emer­gency med­i­cal of­fi­cials who were sum­moned to the court­room when Branch ap­peared to col­lapse after de­liv­er­ing his clos­ing ar­gu­ment to the jury.

Branch was taken to a lo­cal hospi­tal for eval­u­a­tion but was back in the court­room on Fri­day when Brit­ten­burg pre­sented his clos­ing ar­gu­ment to jurors and de­lib­er­a­tions be­gan.

With the charges, prose­cu­tors al­leged Branch sex­u­ally as­saulted an 11-yearold girl on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions while she was in his com­pany at lo­ca­tions in the bor­ough in 1996 and 1997. Branch knew the vic­tim’s fam­ily and he told the vic­tim not to tell any­one, ac­cord­ing to an ar­rest af­fi­davit.

Brit­ten­burg ar­gued Branch ex­ploited his re­la­tion­ship with the girl’s fam­ily in or­der to gain ac­cess to the girl.

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Pottstown de­tec­tives be­gan in 2015 when the vic­tim, now a wo­man in her 30s, con­fided in oth­ers about the as­saults.

“The child for a num­ber of rea­sons that the jury heard ev­i­dence about buried that painful mem­ory for a long time,” Brit­ten­burg said. “Their ver­dict rec­og­nized that she was truth­ful, hon­est and forth­com­ing and had gone through a lot.”

Dur­ing the trial, Branch im­plied the wo­man lied about the in­ci­dents.

De­spite the fact the as­saults oc­curred in the 1990s, the statute of lim­i­ta­tions al­lowed for the charges to be filed.

The vic­tim tes­ti­fied dur­ing the trial and dur­ing un­com­fort­able mo­ments had to en­dure be­ing cross-ex­am­ined by the very man she ac­cused of abus­ing her.

“She put her­self through a very dif­fi­cult process which in­cluded the fact that the de­fen­dant rep­re­sented him­self and cross-ex­am­ined

her. You think about that dynamic, the de­fen­dant chal­leng­ing the vic­tim, the per­son he vic­tim­ized all those years ago,” said Brit­ten­burg, who char­ac­ter­ized the vic­tim as coura­geous.

Brit­ten­burg also com­mended Pottstown De­tec­tive Heather Long for her in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“The re­sult that we were able to bring about would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the ded­i­ca­tion of De­tec­tive Heather Long from the Pottstown Po­lice De­part­ment. This case, like so many oth­ers, just goes to show her com­mit­ment to seek­ing jus­tice and sup­port­ing vic­tims of sex­ual vi­o­lence,” Brit­ten­burg said.

“She sought out other leads and in­for­ma­tion in or­der to cor­rob­o­rate the vic­tim in this case, had to travel long dis­tances to meet with wit­nesses and the re­sult that we got to­day would not be pos­si­ble with­out her hard work,” Brit­ten­burg added.


Louis Henry Branch, 51, of Pottstown, is es­corted from a Mont­gomery County court­room after a jury con­victed him of felony charges of rape of a child un­der 13.

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