NWGA Scanner | February 13th, 2022

Man sentenced to 49 years in prison after being convicted of child molestation and failing to register as sex offender in Murray County

February 10, 2022 (Chatsworth) – David Joseph Lawson (50), formerly of Crandall, was convicted today by a Murray County jury of the offense of child molestation and was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks to serve the maximum of 19 years in prison without parole followed by 1 year on probation. The final year on probation is required by Georgia Law in child molestation cases. The sentence will run consecutively, or back-to-back with a 30 year prison sentence imposed by Superior Court Judge Cindy Morris in October after Lawson was convicted by a different jury for failure to register as a sex offender. The sentence imposed by Judge Morris was also the maximum allowed for the offense and will also have to be served without the possibility of parole. Lawson will have to serve 49 years, less any time already served in the Murray County jail, before he can be released from Department of Corrections custody. Assistant District Attorney and Chief Child Abuse Prosecutor, Ben Kenemer, prosecuted both cases. The Defendant was represented by Jack Donlon of the Public Defender’s Office. 

Lawson was indicted by a grand jury in 2019 and originally scheduled for trial in February of 2020, right at the start of the Covid pandemic. Along with many other cases, his trial was postponed for over a year due to restrictions imposed by the Governor’s emergency order and the Georgia Supreme Court’s declaration of a judicial emergency related to Covid. Jury trials resumed across Georgia last year. 

Lawson has numerous prior convictions starting with statutory rape conviction in 1995 and 1997 involving two different underage victims. That conviction required him to register as a sex offender with the Sheriff in the county where he resides, and to update his registration information annually. Lawson had been convicted more than once over the past 20 years for failure to properly update his registration information on his birthday each year. Because of those prior convictions, the sentencing range on the new failure to register charge was actually greater than on the new child molestation charge. In order not to prejudice the defendant, the two charges were severed and tried before separate juries so that each jury would only know about the charge they were chosen to decide.  

The new child molestation charge arose from a single victim who accused Lawson of touching her inappropriately while Lawson was in a relationship with the victim’s mother. In addition to the primary victim, the two prior victims of Lawson testified about their victimization in the late 1990’s to demonstrate Lawson’s propensity to commit these sorts of crimes. The jury deliberated for approximately 15 minutes before returning their guilty verdict this afternoon. The jury was selected on Monday, but the entire trial took place today. Several of the jurors remained for the sentencing hearing even though that had been excused by the Court and were free to leave. 

The cases were investigated by the Murray County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Chatsworth Police Department.