A Hallsville man charged with three counts of indecency with a child by exposure was found guilty by a Harrison County jury on Wednesday and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crimes.
In the case, the defendant, 36-year-old Nathanial Erwin Ferrell, was accused of exposing his genitals to a then 8-year-old neighbor in July 2017. Following an investigation, the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office arrested him in August 2017.
The trial began in the 71 st Judicial District Court on Tuesday with Judge Brad Morin presiding. After closing arguments on Wednesday, the jury took an hour to deliberate, finding the defendant guilty.
In the punishment phase that followed, the jury spent 15 minutes deliberating, assessing his punishments at 10 years on each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
In her victim’s impact statement, which was read by Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood, the now 10-year-old victim shared how Ferrell’s actions have traumatized her.
“I am mad, scared and confused,” the victim wrote. “It does not make sense why he made that choice.”
The victim’s mother also gave a victim’s impact statement on behalf of herself and her husband, sharing how the crime has impacted her family. She’s saddened by the rift it has caused in the neighborly friendship she had with the defendant’s parents, whom he lived with.
“That relationship is no longer possible,” she cried.
The mother said her family doesn’t hate the defendant or his parents, however.
And although they’ve prevailed, winning the case, she said no one really wins.
“I don’t think anybody wins here,” the victim’s mother said. “They are parents. They have a (child) going to jail. We have a child who was a victim.”
The child made her outcry in July 2017, following the third reported incident. She took the stand on Tuesday, testifying how the defendant would sit on the couch in basketball shorts and pull the shorts from the bottom up to reveal his private part. She said that occurred twice in that particular manner and once while walking down the hallway.
In his closing arguments, Ferrell’s attorney, Brendan Roth, asked jurors to consider probation, which would require a host of strict conditions for those with sexual offenses.
“The good news is you have an opportunity to punish and may give the opportunity for rehabilitation and counsel,” said Roth. “I think the most obvious one is the counseling. You don’t get it in prison — nobody does.
“I’m going to recommend probation, so he can go home and see his son and attempt rehabilitation,” Roth said, noting the defendant’s prior criminal history only consisted of misdemeanor convictions and no felonies.
“He’s done nothing like this in his past,” said Roth.
The defense attorney also noted that the defendant’s mother assured that he wouldn’t be living with them nor be allowed to visit their home.
“He hasn’t been perfect, obviously, but I’m asking you to give him and his family a chance to move forward,” said Roth.
Hood, representing the state, argued that the defendant didn’t deserve probation.
“Does a man who shows his penis to an 8-year-old girl deserve probation? Does he deserve a slap on the wrist … to be in our streets?” she asked. “No.”
Reiterating his criminal history, she noted that Ferrell was already put on probation three times — one for assault, another for criminal mischief and the other for reckless driving — and violated all three.
“You heard the (probation) conditions. Is it reasonable to think if we add conditions that he’ll suddenly abide by them now?” the prosecutor asked.
She said the defendant even missed two of his court dates in this particular case.
“He didn’t show up for court dates two times and we were set for trial in June. All of the witnesses were here, but he wasn’t here for that,” Hood told the jury. “Now all of a sudden he’s going to follow the rules?”
Hood asked the jury to send a message to the defendant and solidify justice for the victim by sentencing Ferrell to 10 years.
“We want victims to come forward,” said Hood.
“This is not a cold. This is not something that’s going to go away,” she said of the impact the offense has caused on the child.
“The defendant needs to be punished; he needs to be held accountable,” the prosecutor said. “This is what this man deserves for what he’s done to this child.”
In addition to serving time, Ferrell will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years, starting from the date of his release.