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Jury convicts former Franklin County DA of fondling young men

FLORENCE (AP) — A federal jury convicted a former Franklin County district attorney Thursday on misdemeanor civil rights counts accusing him of fondling five young men during strip searches when he was the local prosecutor between 2001 and 2004.

John Pilati, 41, denied the allegations but did not testify. He will appeal the verdict, his attorney said.

He was accused of fondling the five, who were between the ages of 17 and 20, after ordering them to strip for searches or to give urine samples for drug tests.

Some of those making the allegations testified they were afraid of speaking out about the treatment because of his power as district attorney.

Defense attorney Bruce Gardner of Huntsville argued that the claims against Pilati were fabricated out of revenge for his aggressive enforcement of the law as DA from 1998 until 2004.

The TimesDaily reported that Pilati showed no emotion as the verdict was announced. He faces up to one year in prison and fines of up to $100,000 on each of the five misdemeanor charges.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 16. He was allowed to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing.

In his closing argument Wednesday, U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Stephen Curran told jurors the strip searches and touching violated the men's civil rights.

"The people of Franklin County had entrusted him to uphold the law by electing him as their district attorney," Curran said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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