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Mistrial declared in church driver case
Assault case will be retried, prosecutor says
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A Hall County State Court judge declared a mistrial in the case of a former church van driver accused of groping a teenage passenger, officials said Friday.

Judge B.E. Roberts granted the defense motion for a mistrial in the case of 33-year-old Bobby Shane Bruce, who was on trial on charges of misdemeanor sexual battery, simple battery and interference with custody, Hall County Solicitor-General Stephanie Woodard said.

Prosecutors alleged Bruce, who drove a van for Mountain Creek Baptist Church in Pendergrass, groped and fondled a 16-year-old girl after taking her to a dirt road in Hall County. The girl resisted his advances and he eventually took her home, according to her testimony.

During this week’s trial, the state also presented evidence of a similar act committed by Bruce involving a 14-year-old girl in Jackson County.

But it was the mention of a third alleged victim that prompted the mistrial.

Bruce’s attorney, Michelle Rohan, made the request for the mistrial because the jury was only supposed to hear about one other alleged victim, but the third alleged victim was mentioned during the testimony of a prosecution witness, officials said.

Bruce, who was relieved of his driving duties for the church after the allegations where made in November 2008, has pending sexual battery charges in Jackson County involving two underage victims, Jackson County Sheriff’s Maj. David Cochran said.

The alleged Hall County victim turned 16 just three days prior to the incident. Had she been 15 at the time, Bruce likely would have been charged with felony child molestation in Hall County, Woodard said.

Woodard said the state intends to retry the case at its earliest convenience.

“We don’t expect the evidence will be any different,” she said.

Bruce remains free on bond.

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