Pa. man convicted of sexual offenses, child abuse in attacks on step-daughter

September 22, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer Staff writer Monica Norton contributed to this story.

A 47-year-old Chadds Ford, Pa., man has been convicted of child abuse and third- and fourth-degree sex offenses in connection with attacks on his step-daughter in Annapolis nearly 20 years ago.

The man was acquitted, however, of the more serious charge of second-degree rape by a county jury that deliberated for nearly three hours Friday night.

Throughout the two-day trial, the prosecution drew a portrait of a young victim, drawn into repeated oral sex as a 7-year-old and forced to leave home at 17 because of strict rules about study habits, curfew hours and leisure time.

Despite appearances that he was a doting father, the defendant hasn't contacted his daughter since 1985, a sign that he lacked any feelings for her, said Cynthia Ferris, assistant state's attorney.

"The essence of this case is: Who do you believe?" she said. "You saw [the victim]. This wasn't easy for her. She has no reason to make this up."

But the defense called on the defendant's brother and a co-worker to show how much he loved his daughter and how he had been a good father.

"She resented having to work around the house. She didn't want to do it," the defendant said.

He said that he loved the victim and always considered her his daughter until she refused to see his terminally ill father after she had left home in 1985.

"Her comment was, 'I don't care, I'm not a part of that family anymore,' " he said.

As a result, he wrote her out of his will and canceled his insurance policies.

Defense attorney Stephen M. Schenning emphasized that the case was a matter of the victim's word against that of the accused, and he faulted police for not obtaining corroboration from either the mother or the victim's husband before filing charges.

"My client has from day one said the charges were untrue, and he testified to that," Mr. Schenning said. "The guy is devastated. He's just emotionally a wreck.

"It's just very difficult to try one of these cases today. People are predisposed to believe the victim," he added.

Mr. Schenning said his client, who is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 23, will appeal the jury verdict.

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