In a case the defendant believes is the longest misdemeanor case in state history, a jury found former Barren County magistrate, Dr. Christ Steward, not guilty of a criminal mischief charge on Thursday.
The charges stem from an incident where Dr. Steward allegedly threw a handful of rocks at his neighbor's passing truck in December of 1997. Dr. Steward has maintained his innocence and says the charges were an attempt to derail his campaign from magistrate, charges the neighbor, Paul Houchens, flatly denies.
The case has seen three judges and three special prosecutors in its history, which includes a dismissal which was appealed by prosecutors and reversed in 2001. Dr. Steward believes the case was a major factor in his close defeat during a 2002 run for County Judge-Executive. Steward says the case has done damage to his reputation and business and cost more than $40,000 in legal fees and lost time at work.
No figures are available for how much the entire case has cost taxpayers to prosecute, though the current special prosecutor, Jeff Eastman, says Dr. Steward filed for at least one continuance and says the state is not entirely at fault for the delay. Eastman says he can't comment further because another criminal investigation has stemmed from the trial and could result in more criminal charges being filed.