Jury weighs charges of defamation

Balto. Co. man says accusations of abuse hurt his reputation, job

August 05, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

When word spread through Reisterstown that police were investigating Richard N. Foltz III for allegedly molesting a child, it cost him his reputation and an estimated $2.9 million, a Baltimore County Circuit Court jury was told yesterday.

Foltz and his wife, Deborah, filed suit last year against the parents of the girl who accused him of sexual abuse. Foltz's law practice suffered, and both he and his wife were shunned by longtime friends, the Foltzes' lawyer said.

"They have lost their good names forever. What is their name worth, what are their reputations worth, what are their lives worth?" Irwin Kramer, the Foltzes' lawyer, told the jury. Jurors heard closing arguments in the Foltzes' defamation trial yesterday and deliberated about two hours before Judge John F. Fader excused them last night.

Deliberations are scheduled to resume Monday.

Jurors also are considering claims by the child's parents, who allege in a countersuit that Foltz abused the girl. The Foltzes' lawyer said yesterday that the child's parents should have known that the allegations were false because of inconsistencies in her accounts.

"Children may tell tales, but adults should know better," Kramer told jurors.

Foltz was accused in 1998 of assaulting the girl, a former friend of his daughter, six times between the spring of 1996 and the summer of 1997 when she was 10 and 11 years old, he said.

The girl told authorities the incidents occurred during sleepovers in the Foltz home. She also accused Foltz of putting a gun to her head and threatening to kill her if she told anyone about the incidents.

The Baltimore County Department of Social Services found the allegations "unsubstantiated" in December 1998 after a county police investigation. No charges were filed.

But according to testimony, the child's mother told at least six acquaintances about the case, prompting friends to avoid the Foltzes.

"The evidence shows she would talk to anyone who would listen," Kramer told jurors in closing arguments yesterday. The child's mother also pushed officials at Sacred Heart School, where the girl was a pupil and the Foltzes' daughter played sports, to write a letter to Foltz in November 1998, ordering him to stay away from the school, according to testimony.

"They took the law into their own hands and took these tales to the community," Kramer said.

Kramer said the child's mother also spread reports that Deborah Foltz knew about the aleged abuse. Mrs. Foltz also is a plaintiff in the suit.

The child's parents testified during the 10-day trial that they remain convinced their daughter is telling the truth.

Stephen E. Marshall, the lawyer for the child's parents, reminded jurors in closing arguments that Leon Rosenberg, a retired professor of child psychology at the Johns Hopkins University, testified that the child showed all the "textbook symptoms" of abuse.

The child is in therapy for depression, has inexplicable bouts of anger, has recurrent nightmares and shows such an intense fear of Foltz that she would hide under her covers in bed, the lawyer said.

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