Circuit Judge Stephen M. Waldron dismissed a hung jury Wednesday after it had deliberated for 16 hours without reaching a verdict on an Edgewood man accused of sexual child abuse and rape involving the daughter and son of his girlfriend.
Nicholas Victor Lee, 36, faced the same charges in December, when a previous jury was unable to reach a verdict before Judge Maurice W. Baldwin.
In the latest trial, which lasted seven days, the girl, now 14, and the boy, now 12, testified that Mr. Lee was a nice man until a daughter was born to him and their mother in September 1988.
The mother, her daughter, her son, and other people involved in this case are not being identified so that the privacy of the minor children can be protected.
The girl said Mr. Lee began to be mean to her and her brother, using various forms of corporal punishment to discipline them.
The teen-ager accused Mr. Lee of fondling her in her bedroom.
The teen-ager described watching from the upstairs hall of the Edgewood townhouse where they all lived at the time while her brother was sodomized.
She testified that she was sexually abused an average of once a day, sometimes in front of her brother, but never when her mother was present. She testified that the abuse continued until July 1989.
About that time, two anonymous calls to the Department of Social Services alleging physical neglect and abuse of the children triggered an investigation of Mr. Lee, his girlfriend and the children, county social workers testified.
The daughter and son were removed from the Edgewood home by social service authorities in July 1989.
The girl said she had tried to tell her mother what Mr. Lee allegedly had done to her, but that her mother did not believe her. She said she did not tell anyone else because she was afraid Mr. Lee would beat her if she did.
In January 1992, the girl said, she finally told a school counselor.
Investigators for the Department of Social Services were informed, and Mr. Lee was indicted in March 1992 on two counts of sexual child abuse, second-degree rape, third-degree sexual offenses, assault and battery.
The girl's brother corroborated his sister's testimony, investigators said.
Prosecutor M. Elizabeth Bowen, an assistant state's attorney, said Wednesday that no decision has been made whether to prosecute Mr. Lee for a third time.
Robert N. Winkler, a public defender representing Mr. Lee, said the children were victims of a mother who first became pregnant at age 14.
Once Mr. Lee and the children's mother had a child of their own, the older children essentially were ignored, Mr. Winkler said.
Then the children told school counselors that Mr. Lee abused them, he said.
"From that point, every doctor, every psychologist and every social worker who talked to those children began with the premise that Nick Lee is the guy," Mr. Winkler said.
"It was a reward to those kids that the social workers and doctors were happy the children had named someone," Mr. Winkler said.
Over and over they had to repeat their story and the story became a tight, neat package, he said.
"Whenever I asked [the daughter] anything beyond her packaged story, she did not remember. She didn't even remember how many bedrooms were in the house," he said.
Mr. Winkler told the jury that the case came down to believe or not believe the children, but don't believe the professionals.
"The social workers, the doctors, the counselors -- they only can tell you what the children told them," he said.
The children now live in foster homes.