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Clinton Twp. man sees added charge related to groping incident

SAXONBURG — During a preliminary hearing Wednesday, a young girl testified about being inappropriately touched by a Clinton Township man.

“He said to me that my mother ‘should not trust you with me as much as she does,’” said the 14-year-old girl of the Dec. 18 incident.

The girl’s testimony supplied some of the state’s evidence supporting charges against Ralph Dawson, 43, which include one felony count of corruption of minors and two misdemeanor counts of indecent assault. He is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

According to the girl, Dawson touched her inappropriately at least twice, both times disguised as hugs, and she did not give consent for any of it.

“When he hugged me, I got scared, and I didn’t say anything,” the girl said.

The girl said she later reported the incident to adults at her school and to her mother.

During arguments to District Judge Sue Haggerty, Dawson’s attorney Justin Ketchel said the touching was purely accidental, and he also disagreed the girl was corrupted from those interactions.

“I don’t think what we heard today rises to indecent contact,” Ketchel said. “Certainly, we haven’t heard any testimony today that this would corrupt the child’s morals.”

Assistant District Attorney David Beichner said the corruption of minor charge is established from the evidence of the other misdemeanor two counts.

“The corruption is plain from the facts presented here today,” Beichner said.

Based on the testimony of the girl and Trooper Phillip Schneider, Haggerty moved forward all charges to the Butler County Common Pleas Court, where Dawson is expected to appear for formal arraignment Aug. 16.

Schneider provided further information about his two interviews with Dawson. Schneider said Dawson had not been Mirandized for either because he was volunteering the information.

“For the second interview, Ralph reached out to me,” Schneider said. “(Before both interviews) he was told he was not under arrest and free to leave at any time.”

Schneider said that in first interview Dawson told him the touching was accidental, but in the second interview he admitted to grabbing her and the reason for doing so, which was later argued as vague by Ketchel.

“I’m going to tell you, to cop a feel,” said Schneider, quoting Dawson’s statement when asked why he grabbed the girl.

Ketchel did not wish to comment further on the case following the hearing.