Former deacon found guilty for sexual battery

- A Lake County jury didn't buy the story of a former Leesburg church deacon who claimed his step-granddaughter molested him.

It took jurors about three hours Wednesday afternoon to find 66-year-old Thomas Warren Halsey guilty on sexual battery of a child less than 12, and lewd and lascivious molestation. The charges stemmed from incidents that took place in a treehouse behind his Sunnyside Drive home in Leesburg.

Halsey, who was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, will be sentenced at a later date.

The three hours of deliberations Wednesday did not include the more than two hours it took for the courtroom to replay a video for jurors by the then-5½-year-old victim. In that video, from a March 2014 interview with a child advocacy representative, the girl talked about how Halsey had her perform sexual acts on him in the tree house - including once when she was 3½.

Assistant State Attorney Lori Lockshin said during closing arguments earlier Wednesday that the grandchild thought it was just normal things she was doing with the man she called "pops."

"She loved him, she trusted him, she didn't know those things were wrong," Lockshin said. 

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