The retrial of former political candidate and local businessman Eric Bodenweiser on sexual abuse charges will be moved to Kent County, following Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley granting his attorney’s Motion to Change Venue, “concluding that there exists in Sussex County a reasonable probability of so great a prejudice against the defendant that he cannot obtain a fair trial in Sussex County.”
In June, a mistrial was declared in the case. The alleged crimes took place in October 1987 and August 1990 — starting, the alleged victim said, when he was 10 years old.
In 2012, a Sussex County grand jury indicted Bodenweiser on 113 total counts, including 39 counts of Unlawful Sexual Intercourse First Degree and 74 counts of Unlawful Sexual Contact Second Degree. Those charges were eventually reduced to 14 total counts, and for the jury deliberations, the charges were reduced again.
In the end, the jury of eight women and four men was tasked with deciding if Bodenweiser was innocent or guilty of 10 counts of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and five counts of second-degree unlawful sexual contact. The jury had the option of convicting Bodenweiser on third-degree unlawful sexual intercourse charges instead of first-degree. The lesser charge carries a two- to 25-year jail sentence instead of 20-years-to-life.
In the Dec. 2 decision, Bradley noted that the case has “garnered a considerable amount of media attention” due to the nature of the allegations, as well as Bodenweiser’s ties to the business and political communities. He said the trial, as well as the hung jury, had received media coverage.
“Indeed, a large number of potential jurors in Sussex County are familiar with the case and have already concluded that the defendant is guilty. … Therefore, to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial, the case will be tried in Kent County,” Bradley ruled.
Bodenweiser’s attorney, Joe Hurley, declined to comment on Bradley’s decision, saying he didn’t wish to draw more media attention to the case.
The retrial is set to begin on Jan. 12, 2015.