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VanNatta ruled competent for trial on 105 charges
First trial on 95 charges set to start Feb. 19
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Robert VanNatta is wheeled out of the Grant County Courthouse third-floor courtroom after he was found competent to stand trial Thursday morning.

LANCASTER — Robert VanNatta of Platteville was ruled competent Thursday morning to stand trial on the 105 charges he faces in Grant County Circuit Court.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Robert VanDeHey sets in motion the first of a possible series of trials on charges with maximum sentences totaling 907½ years in prison.

The trial on 95 counts — 27 of child enticement — expose sex organ, 27 counts of exposing genitals to a child, 40 counts of sex with a child 16 or older, and one count of exposing a child to harmful material — is scheduled to begin Feb. 19 with jury selection.

Those charges are for incidents that allegedly took place between Oct. 24, 2011 and March 24. VanNatta stood mute on those charges, and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf July 3.

VanNatta was set to go to trial in mid-November before Circuit Judge Robert VanDeHey ordered the competency examination.

VanDeHey’s ruling covers the four sets of charges VanNatta faces, although only the trial on the first 95 charges has been set.

The other charges VanNatta faces include:

•    One count of possessing explosives for unlawful purpose, one count of kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and three counts of felony bail jumping. VanNatta pleaded not guilty to those charges May 22.

•    One count of solicitation to resist or obstruct an officer with intent to mislead, one count of conspiracy to resist or obstruct an officer with intent to mislead, and one count of solicitation of harboring or aiding a felon by falsifying information. VanNatta pleaded not guilty to those charges Aug. 17.

•    One count of solicitation of first-degree intentional homicide. VanNatta pleaded not guilty Aug. 17.

A status conference on all the charges is scheduled for Feb. 1 at 9 a.m.

VanNatta was wheeled into the Grant County Courthouse third-floor courtroom in a wheelchair wearing an orange prison uniform. VanNatta reportedly has been on an on-and-off hunger strike and is on suicide watch in the jail, according to statements made during the hearing.

“The report did not support that Mr. VanNatta would be incompetent” to stand trial, said VanDeHey.

VanNatta’s attorney, Christopher Van Wagner, agreed, but cited one part of the report about the “need to continue to monitor Mr. VanNatta due to his extreme level of depression.”

Since VanNatta was interviewed for the competency examination, said Van Wagner, “He has deteriorated since that time.”

Van Wagner said the report showed no evidence of VanNatta’s trying to fake mental illness, but showed a “very clear, very significant depressive situation.”

VanNatta was first arrested in March after the parents of a juvenile female learned about a relationship between VanNatta and their 16-year-old daughter. The Grant County Sheriff’s Department investigation reported that VanNatta had used a cellphone to send sensitive materials to the girl.

The second set of charges stem from an incident that took place at VanNatta’s home on Jones and Vaassen Lane April 19.

The remaining charges were the result of an investigation at the Grant County Jail in which VanNatta was accused of soliciting a jail inmate to kill his wife, and accused of soliciting a former inmate to plant drugs in VanNatta’s wife’s car.