Ex-student testifies in sex trial

March 23, 1994|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

A 21-year-old woman told an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury yesterday that she performed a sex act three times on the former special education teacher who had befriended her while she was his student at Northeast High School in 1989.

The woman alleged that Charles Allen Yocum, 30, took advantage of her after she began confiding in him about problems with her father and stepmother when she was 16.

Mr. Yocum is charged with child abuse and unnatural and perverted sex practices. He is among three Northeast teachers charged last year with sexually abusing students, a scandal that attracted national attention when one teacher admitted on "Geraldo!" and other TV programs that he'd had sex with several students.

Ronald Walter Price, the former social studies teacher who claimed in those appearances that he was not alone in having sex with students, was convicted by a jury last fall on three counts of sexual child abuse and is serving a 21-year sentence.

Terrence M. Nolan, one of Mr. Yocum's lawyers, told jurors in his opening statement that the victim made up the story "to impress her friends, to manipulate people and to suit her needs" after seeing Price's appearance on "Geraldo!".

He asked jurors to remember that the alleged incidents supposedly occurred in Mr. Yocum's first year as a teacher at the school, during the first year of his marriage and during the lunch recesses in a school year in which he was coaching football, wrestling and track.

"It did not happen. It could not have happened in the middle of a school day," he said.

But Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris told jurors that the victim wrote about the relationship in her diary at the time, tore the diary to shreds when her stepmother read it and confronted her with it, and then told a teen-age friend and an adult neighbor about the sex.

The victim testified yesterday that she met Mr. Yocum in the fall of 1988 when she was a sophomore assigned to his special education social studies class.

Depressed about her stormy relationship with an alcoholic father and abusive stepmother, she began visiting Mr. Yocum in his classroom after class a few times each week to talk about her problems, she said.

The following spring, Mr. Yocum began feeling her breasts occasionally and kissing her, she said.

The relationship progressed until she performed a sex act on him three times -- twice in his classroom with the door locked and once in a special education storage room closet, she testified.

In another incident, Mr. Yocum locked the classroom door, put construction paper over the door window and dropped his pants in preparation for having sexual intercourse with her, she said.

But he was interrupted when another teacher knocked on the door, she said.

The woman said she agreed to the sex because of what she thought were mutual feelings of affection.

"The truth is, I thought he cared. I felt good about it inside," said the woman, a convenience store clerk who now lives near State College, Pa., with her fiancee and their 5-week-old daughter.

She said she broke off the relationship with Mr. Yocum in her junior year and wound up feeling as if she had been "used."

She said she never came forward because Mr. Yocum told her that no one would believe her. The case came to the attention of school authorities after she told her fiance about it and he wrote a letter last May to Joseph J. Carducci Jr., Northeast's principal.

In other testimony, the teen-age friend, who is now 23 and married to the victim's brother, confirmed that the victim told her about the sex. The neighbor, Cindy Fetty, also testified that the victim came running to her house in tears in the fall of 1990, enraged that her stepmother had read her diary.

The neighbor said that she called the school to report the incident but never got through that day, and she never followed up the call because she feared retaliation against her three children.

The friend said she never came forward because she promised the victim she would never tell. "It wasn't my responsibility, and I respected her wishes. I did what she asked," she testified.

The case, being tried before Judge Eugene M. Lerner, is expected to go to the jury tomorrow.

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