published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Chattanooga: Judge denies new trial for rapist

A man convicted of burglary and of kidnapping and raping the house-sitter for a prominent local couple has been denied a new trial.

Tracy Roberson, 39, has grown a goatee since his September 2009 conviction but otherwise looked much the same as his original mugshot as he sat shackled Monday morning in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Roberson's attorney, Donna Miller, filed documents challenging police methods in obtaining a search warrant in the original case, prosecutors' instructions to the jury, and how her client was sentenced.

In court, Miller said police officers made "false or reckless statements" in their affidavits which were used to obtain the search warrant and evidence that helped convict Roberson.

She could not be reached for comment after the hearing.

Executive Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston rebutted Miller's challenges during the hearing in front of Judge Rebecca Stern.

"The proof was rather overwhelming as to Mr. Roberson's involvement in the especially aggravated kidnapping and rape of the victim," he said.

Pinkston noted police found a safe stolen from the home in the trunk of Roberson's car and DNA of the victim on Roberson's boxer shorts.

Stern overruled each of Miller's challenges and denied the new trial request. Roberson now may appeal his case to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Roberson's brother and four other supporters who were in court did not comment on the judge's ruling and declined to give their names.

Pinkston said after the hearing that Roberson's request was standard and only took longer because Roberson had gotten a different attorney after the trial.

A jury took less than two hours to convict Roberson of eight crimes, including aggravated rape and robbery, for a break-in on Aug. 7, 2008, at the Heritage Landing home of Alan and Alison Lebovitz. Alan Lebovitz is the vice president of CBL & Associates, which owns Hamilton Place mall.

In 2009, the couple attended the three-day trial.

Police arrested Roberson a day after the crime by connecting a Mississippi Avenue resident's call about a suspicious vehicle parked less than a mile from the Lebovitz home and matching the license plate with Roberson's black BMW.

Then-Chattanooga police-Lt. Tim Carroll said the case may not have gone to trial without that piece of evidence, according to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives.

Roberson used information obtained from his cousin, a contractor who worked for the homeowners, to plan the crime, according to court documents. He stole a safe containing nearly $60,000.

He then raped and sodomized the 19-year-old house-sitter and threatened to kill her if she told police. She has not been identified, in accordance with Times Free Press policy concerning sexual assault victims.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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