TYLER, Texas (AP) - An East Texas jury swiftly convicted and delivered a life sentence Thursday against a man accused of being part of an alleged swinger's club that used children as performers.
The Smith County jury in Tyler decided within a half-hour that 47-year old Dennis Pittman would serve the life sentence, not becoming eligible for parole for at least 15 years. The jury deliberated for about 1 1/2 hours earlier in the day before finding Pittman guilty of engaging in organized criminal activity.
He was the fourth of six defendants to be tried in the alleged Mineola child sex ring. The convictions and life sentences for two others, Patrick Booger Red Kelley, 43, and Jamie Pittman, 38 were overturned on appeal last month.
In closing arguments in Dennis Pittman's case, Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham told jurors Pittman was pure evil and dismissed defense efforts to challenge the children's credibility.
But defense attorney Jason Cassel asked how a child sex club could exist in a small east Texas town across from the town's newspaper with clientele coming and going.
Pittman's attorneys said they would appeal the verdict.
The verdict and sentence came a month after the 14th Texas Court of Appeals in Houston overturned the Kelley and James Pittman convictions. Authorities accused Kelley of helping set up a kindergarten where young children learned to dance provocatively at the so-called Mineola Swinger's Club. To help them perform, prosecutors said the children were given Vicodin-like drugs the adults passed off as silly pills.
Mineola is a town of about 5,100 residents 75 miles east of Dallas.