Man convicted of sexually abusing stepdaughter

March 30, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

A Carroll Circuit judge convicted a 33-year-old Taneytown man yesterday of sexually abusing his 14-year-old stepdaughter beginning with her sixth birthday.

Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said the case was one of credibility and that he, for the most part, believed the victim when she told him that her stepfather fondled her in her bedroom on many occasions from 1985 to 1989.

The judge also said he believed her testimony that the man exposed himself and made a sexually suggestive remark to her while she was playing a video game April 2, 1993.

Judge Burns found the man guilty of two counts of child abuse, two counts of third-degree sexual offense and one count of second-degree sexual offense. He acquitted the man on a charge of attempted second-degree rape, attempted second-degree sexual offense, two counts of child abuse and two counts of third-degree sexual offense.

As the judge explained his verdicts in the nonjury trial, the defendant -- whose name is being withheld to protect his stepdaughter's privacy -- stared blankly. The girl, sitting four rows behind the prosecutor, smiled and then broke into tears as she and her mother embraced.

"It was a fair verdict," Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill said. "The victim has gone through more hell than most 40-year-olds, let alone most 13- or 14-year-olds."

The girl took the stand early in the three-day trial, which began Thursday. She testified that her stepfather began abusing her on her sixth birthday and that tickling episodes turned into fondling, and described how, on April 2, her stepfather exposed himself to her.

She testified that she was confused, scared and angry, but that she still loved her stepfather. In a letter to him that was never delivered, she said, "I can't believe what you did to me. I am very angry and hurt by what you've done. . . . I wish that we could have had a true father-daughter relationship."

Her mother -- the man's estranged wife -- testified that she believed her daughter when the daughter first told her of her accusations.

On the stand yesterday, the defendant didn't deny exposing himself to his stepdaughter but said it was an accident.

"I grabbed my shorts and pulled them to the side, and then I made a very inappropriate remark," he testified. "I was shocked that I did that."

J. Robert Johnson, the man's attorney, said in his closing argument that, at most, his client was guilty only of indecent exposure.

The girl's "version of these events cannot by believed beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty," the lawyer argued. Mr. Johnson declined to comment after the judge's verdicts. The defendant could receive up to 70 years in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Burns on May 26.

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