RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Late Thursday afternoon, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of the elementary school teaching assistant accused of sexually assaulting two young girls. The shocking twist came after almost two full days of proceedings in the case of Alex Erby.
Erby is facing four felony charges, including aggravated sexual battery and taking indecent liberties with a minor while in a supervisory role.
No one would talk about the specifics behind this mistrial on the record. What we know right now is what the judge said he regretted he had to do--declare a mistrial because there have been "impermissible contacts between a case party and a few of the jurors."
In a situation like this, the judge says he is compelled to call a mistrial. No one is allowed to have contact with jurors during a case. In fact, each day the judge orders the jury not to watch coverage on television or read the newspaper, then polls jurors to make sure they haven't had any contact they're not supposed to.
At this point, we don't know exactly who talked to or contacted a few jurors. Right after an hour long lunch break late Thursday afternoon, attorneys for both sides had a meeting with the judge for about a half an hour. Immediately following it, the judge ordered the mistrial.
"At this point no comment; we're just going to go forward," Erby's attorney Kevin Purnell said. "We meet an obstacle. We meet those challenges in life and we address them. That's what this is. We need a fair trial. We'll be ready on October 30th and 31st."
After almost two days of proceedings, this mistrial shocked people inside the courtroom. The grandmother of one of the two girls accusing G.H. Reid teaching assistant Alex Erby of inappropriately touching her shook her head and pursed her lips. You could hear reaction from Erby's family, as well.
The time lapse between this week's case and the new trial date of October 30th and 31st also seemed to bother people. When it was announced, one of the girls, who alleges Erby touched her bottom and made a sexual comment while walking in the hall with him March 8, 2012, gasped and her jaw dropped.
Keep in mind, the other alleged incident, in which Erby is accused of grabbing a student's breast in a classroom happened in February of last year. Now Erby, the two girls and their families will have to wait until October, more than a year and a half later for some sort of conclusion.