Westminster woman goes on trial in alleged sexual abuse of foster son

January 05, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

A 32-year-old Westminster woman went on trial yesterday on charges of sexually abusing her 15-year-old foster son from July through December 1991.

The woman, whose name is being withheld to protect the boy's identity, is charged with one count of abuse by a custodian and six counts of fourth-degree sex offenses -- committing perverted sex acts, having sex with a minor and having sex without consent.

"This is a case about a violation of the law," Assistant State's Attorney Bart M. Walker III told the jury during opening statements. "But more importantly, it's about a violation of trust."

Defense Attorney J. Barry Hughes said the case is not so cut and dried.

"The issue in this case is credibility," said Mr. Hughes.

"You'll have to listen to him and decide whether he is telling the truth."

The state called four witnesses yesterday, but counsel spent the bulk of the day questioning the youth, who has been in another foster home for the past eight months.

The boy accused his foster mother of performing oral sex and other sexual acts on him numerous times throughout his stay with her, which began in May 1991, court documents said.

"Sometimes she would look at me and say something like, 'You seem to be having a good day. You want to have sex?' " the youth said on the stand.

Mr. Hughes, who was given the right to review the boy's Department of Social Services Records, said the record contains other unproven accusations of sexual abuse the boy had lodged against others.

No charges were ever filed in the boy's allegations against the other adults.

The defense attorney said the boy used to claim he was being abused to get out of difficult situations -- one of which, Mr. Hughes said, had exploded the night before the boy told his physician he was being sexually molested by the woman who is on trial.

"You don't remember telling the doctor that you were speaking up about the abuse now because you were worried about the reaction from [the defendant's mother] after you struck her grandson?" Mr. Hughes asked the youth on the witness stand.

"If it's in the doctor's notes, I must have said it," the boy said said slowly, pausing between words.

He had been placed in foster homes four years ago, shortly after his mother married his stepfather.

On the stand, he told the jury his step-father's mother "gave me a black eye once."

"Don't you remember calling your mother and telling her you were sorry you did it [accusing others of abuse], but you had to get out?" Mr. Hughes asked the boy.

"I remember calling my mother to say I loved her and told her to get rid of him [the stepfather]," he said.

The youth was placed in a Taneytown foster home, where he stayed for three years.

Before the trial began yesterday, the attorneys selected nine men and three women to serve as the jury.

Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. heard motions from the two attorneys concerning items to be presented into evidence, such as the foster mother's "diary" and a book about erotic art she had given to the boy as a gift.

The diary, which had been found by police shortly after the investigation began, was eliminated from evidence at Mr. Hughes' request.

Judge Beck did not grant Mr. Hughes' request to omit from evidence a book the defendant had given to the boy, who is interested in art.

While Mr. Hughes said the subject of the art book, which contains the works of well-known artists such as Salvador Dali and Picasso, would prejudice the jury against his client, Mr. Walker insisted it would give them insight into the woman's character.

Authorities began investigating the case in late February 1992 after the youth, who will turn 17 in a few weeks, told his high school counselor and his physician that his foster mother performed sexual acts on him and had been forcing him to have JTC intercourse.

If convicted on all counts, the woman could face a maximum sentence of 30 years and a $6,000 fine.

The trial is expected to end tomorrow.

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