WEST CHESTER – An ex-convict who spent a considerable amount of time behind bars in state prison for crimes involving violence against women – including a mid-1980s rape – has been acquitted on charges he sexually assaulted a Phoenixville woman at a health center last year.
A Common Pleas Court jury deliberated for about one hour, returning to Judge Anne Marie Wheatcraft’s courtroom around 5 p.m. and finding Lonnie Flagg not guilty of two counts of indecent assault. Flagg, who had been free on bail since his arrest, left the Chester County Justice center a free man.
Flagg testified in his own defense, saying that he had never touched the woman, whose name is being withheld by the Daily Local News, sister paper of The Phoenix Reporter & Item, because of the nature of the charges involved. He admitted that he had verbally attacked the woman at the center, using very harsh language.
Defense attorney Christopher Mannix of Philadelphia had told the jury in his opening statement that the woman had likely made up the story of the assault because she was angry at Flagg, whom she had befriended while the two were clients at the center, for insulting her.
The prosecution, led by Assistant District Attorney Max O’Keefe, had urged the panel to accept the woman’s account of events. O’Keefe had said in his opening that although some details of her story had changed over the times she repeated it, the essential facts she had complained about in October – that Flagg had touched her on her breast and buttocks while they were alone in an art room at the center – remained unchanged.
Flagg, 61, of Phoenixville was convicted in 1983 of raping a woman he sponsored in Alcoholics Anonymous in Phoenixville. He was originally sentenced to 80 years in prison, but that sentence was later reduced to a maximum of 18˝ years, which Flagg served, court records indicate.
Flagg’s rape trial 20 years ago drew attention not only because of the seriousness of the crime, but because a relative of the victim was found murdered in her South Coventry home nine days before Flagg was charged with the rape.
According to stories published at the time, Flagg was a prime suspect in the murder. Investigators at the time said they had witnesses who placed a man matching Flagg’s description at the murder scene, but both witnesses failed to pick him out of a lineup.
The murder victim’s car was found a block from Flagg’s home, and paperwork from inside the vehicle was found in Flagg’s Phoenixville apartment.
Charges were never filed in the murder.
Flagg escaped a conviction for attempted murder of two women in 2004, when a Montgomery County jury acquitted him on those serious charges. He had been charged with choking a Pottstown woman in July 2003 during an argument. The jury also acquitted Flagg of charges he attempted to murder and assault the woman and her daughter when he allegedly drove a Saturn sedan and tried to run the younger woman’s car off the road as she and her mother were on their way to the Pottstown police station to report the alleged choking.
Flagg was convicted only of two counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of criminal mischief and a summary charge of causing an accident involving damage to a vehicle, crimes arising from the crash.
In April 2004, he was sentenced to serve 3˝ to seven years in state prison on those charges.