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Rushton, former Bethany professor, enters 'Alford pleas' to sexual battery charges

Former Bethany Professor Is Sentenced to Jail Time

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ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio - Update

A former Bethany College professor and department head is sentenced to jail time after he admits he is guilty of molesting children.

Authorities said 63-year-old Richard Rushton will spend five years behind bars.

Neither he nor his attorney would speak for his defense.

He entered an Alford plea to two charges of sexual battery last month.

Rushton, who told the court he has a doctorate, was originally charged with more counts and more serious counts, but the prosecutor says some of those had to be dismissed.

Rushton was sentenced Monday by Belmont County Judge Jennifer Sargus. Update:

Belmont County Court officials said Richard T. Rushton entered "Alford pleas" to two second degree sexual battery charges Monday.

An Alford plea, according to Judge Jennifer Sargus, is essentially a guilty plea in court but it's where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence.

Under the Alford plea, the defendant does admit that enough evidence exists in which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury  to find the defendant guilty.

The 63-year-old former Bethany College department head could be sentenced to 16 years in prison.

He will be sentenced Nov. 19.

Rushton remains in the Belmont County Jail where he has been lodged since he was discovered in Italy and extradited back.

According to documents, the Alford guilty plea originated in the U.S. Supreme Court case of North Carolina versus Alford back in 1970. Update:

A suspect, wanted in Belmont County for molesting children, remains in Italy while the legal system there reportedly gets set to take a long summer holiday.


Richard Rushton, former professor at Bethany College, could get two life sentences plus 21 years, if convicted. But they have to get him back to Belmont County first.

The charges facing the former college professor include two counts of rape, two counts of sexual battery and one count of gross sexual imposition. Authorities say the victims were two little girls.

After a five-month search that scanned the globe, with the help of the FBI, Rushton was found in Campobasso, Italy.

But now, even after Belmont County officials have complied with the mounds of paperwork required by the Italian authorities, there may be more delays in getting him back.

"Well, I've been advised that the court of appeals in Italy is the entity that sets the date for the formal extradition hearing that he is entitled to," says Belmont County Prosecutor Chris Berhalter. "That date has not been set yet. I've also been advised that if it's not set by the summer months, we could face more delays because the legal system in Italy slows down significantly during that period of time."

Specifically, Belmont County authorities say they're being told that the legal system in Italy basically grinds to a halt in the summer, due to the traditional summer holiday.

Berhalter says he has already sent voluminous documentation--everything from the Ohio Revised Code to the defendant's picture and fingerprints. They are hoping this case, after so many delays, won't face even more.

The charges against Rushton came out last November, when Rushton was an instructor at Bethany College and the head of the college's education department. He was relieved of his duties there shortly after the charges came out, according to college officials.


More information has been released on the whereabouts of the former college professor who is wanted in Belmont County on charges of child molestation.


He is in an Italian jail.

The city in Italy where Richard Rushton is incarcerated is Campobasso. There is a flurry of paperwork, back and forth, between there and the Belmont County Prosecutor's office.

Prosecutor Chris Berhalter said it's a lengthy and complex process.

"Well as you can imagine, we have a significant amount of paperwork we have to complete," Berhalter said. "Then once that's done it all has to be translated into Italian. And all this has to be completed within 45 days to comply with the extradition treaty that we have with Italy."

Berhalter said a Justice Department employee at the US. Embassy in Italy has been helping in the process.

The 62-year-old Rushton, formerly the head of Bethany College's education department, was reportedly taken into custody in Italy March 23.