Local man pleads not guilty to rape charge

John Matthew Branham

A Somerset man has pleaded not guilty to third-degree Rape in connection to his relationship with a minor.

John Matthew Branham, 28, of Grand Central Boulevard, was arraigned in Pulaski Circuit Court on Friday morning. He was indicted earlier this month in connection to a case involving a Somerset woman who allowed her minor daughters to have relationships with two men.

Branham has been at the Pulaski County Detention Center since his arrest last Monday. His attorney, Dan Thompson, asked Special Judge Roderick Messer -- filling in after David Tapp's appointment to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims -- to consider reducing Branham's $50,000 cash/property bond.

Thompson argued that the reported victim is now 18 years old and expecting Branham's child. While acknowledging the two started dating when she was 16, Thompson noted that they recognize the seriousness of the charge but want to continue living together. He asked that Branham be allowed contact with the young woman, whom he said was in the audience ready to state her wishes. Thompson also asked that his client be given an ankle monitor so that he may continue working.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney David Bridgeman opposed a bond reduction, at least until such time that his office's victim's advocate could speak with the young woman and her family.

Judge Messer ultimately agreed to reduce the bond to $10,000 fully secured. Branham is next scheduled to appear in Pulaski Circuit Court on February 27 for a pretrial conference.

Branham's co-defendants -- Stephanie Lynn Jones, 38, of Ohio Street, and Daniel E. Mills, 40, of Liberty Street -- are both scheduled to be arraigned on January 29.

Jones, the mother of the two reported victims, is facing two counts of first-degree Unlawful Transaction with a Minor.

The Pulaski County Grand Jury charged Mills with two counts of third-degree Rape as well as first-degree Sexual Abuse and Prohibited Use of an Electronic Communication System to Procure a Minor for Sexual Offenses. The minor he is accused of being involved with is reportedly 15 years old.

The case was investigated by Somerset Police Department.

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