MAYVILLE - Jury selection for a trial involving a Jamestown man accused of abducting and sexually assaulting a 12-year old girl is set to begin next week in Chautauqua County Court.
Eric L. Chant, 22, faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted on felony predatory sexual assault against a child stemming from the 2011 abduction. County Judge John Ward will preside over the case.
Chant also faces two counts of first-degree rape, one count of second-degree kidnapping and second-degree burglary, all felonies.
"It's been an important case for us to prosecute," said District Attorney David Foley, who will lead the case against Chant. "Laws have changed in New York state including cases involving a Class A felony."
He added: "We take these charges very, very seriously. It has been my position for him to plead to the top count."
According to police, Chant entered a home on Aug. 12, 2011, and abducted a 12 year-old girl as she slept in her living room with her parents nearby. Chant then forced her into a stolen van and took her to a secluded area on Scott Hill Road in Pomfret.
Foley said the girl was able to convince Chant to let her out of the van for a brief period, when she took the opportunity to run.
"I give a lot of credit to this young girl," Foley said in September during a news conference. "The case could have ended up very, very differently. She was able to convince Mr. Chant to allow her to get out of this minivan.
"Once she was out of the minivan, although in a secluded area, she ran. She was able to get away from him and ended up at a home nearby, and that is when the police were called."
Chant was incarcerated in the Chautauqua County Jail on unrelated charges when he was announced as the suspect. He was held on a burglary charge out of Pomfret and an outstanding bench warrant out of Dunkirk City Court for assault.
Foley said his case will take about 2 weeks. "I have quite a few witnesses."
Officials also said they believe Chant was acting alone and no one else was involved in the crime. There was no connection to previous attempted abductions which occurred in the east side of the city and in Lakewood, according to officers.
The county Public Defender's Office is representing Chant.