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Defense lawyer makes opening statements in ex-Custer County sheriff's sex abuse trial

By Ron Jackson - Staff Writer Modified: January 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm •  Published: January 6, 2009
Updated at 2:55 p.m.

FAIRVIEW --Five of the six women who have accused former Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess of abusing them sexually are convicted felons, and several have "mental issues" and have even had their children taken away by the state, defense attorney Steve Huddleston said this afternoon in his opening statements. Several of the women are also involved in a lawsuit against Burgess, Huddleston said. "Each of these women are asking for money out of Custer County," he said.

Burgess said that in the case of Joy Mason, who is part of the lawsuit and will be one of the prosecution witnesses, the sexual relationship was an affair between two consenting adults.

Mason was using the sheriff to get through her drug court sentence, Huddleston said, and Huddleston accused Mason of perpetuating the affair in order to blackmail the sheriff. The affair lasted between February 2006 and March 2007, he said.

A jury of five men and seven women was seated Monday in Burgess' trial on 36 felony charges of sexual abuse against female inmates and drug court participants.

Associate District Judge N. Vince Barefoot met with attorneys behind closed doors today and issued a gag order barring them from speaking to the media. The judge told The Oklahoman he did not want the attorneys "to put their own slant on the testimony."

Story update from 12:30 p.m.

FAIRVIEW -- A prosecutor gave an overview of testimony jurors can expect to hear from women who have accused a former sheriff of sexual abuse, as prosecution opening statements concluded about noon today in the trial of former Custer County Sheriff Mike Burgess.

Brenda Brown, one of the alleged victims, will testify that she had violated her drug court requirements and "he promised her a deal. He said if you help me, I'll help you," Assistant District Attorney James Swartz said. Swartz said Brown knew what that meant.

Brown will testify that on the day Burgess arrested her, they pulled off on a country road, and he forced her to perform oral sex on him.

Swartz said Brown will testify that she had to live for several weeks in a hotel room because she could not live in the same house with her daughter. Burgess showed up repeatedly after midnight and announced to her "booty call," Swartz said Brown will testify.

Another of the six accusers, Joy Mason, will testify how she became entangled in a relationship with Burgess based on favors she garnered by performing sexual acts on him.

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