State senator denies charges of sex abuse

August 28, 2002|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

State Sen. J. Robert Hooper denied yesterday allegations filed in a lawsuit Monday by a former in-law that he sexually abused her two young sons.

The $43 million suit, filed in Harford County Circuit Court, claims Hooper abused the two boys during Sunday visits to his house in 1998 and 1999. The boys were younger than 10 at the time.

"Even though it may be impossible to unring the bell of false allegations, there is no truth to these allegations whatsoever, and I will fight them vigorously in court," Hooper said in a statement. The Republican senator, who represents District 35 in Harford and Cecil counties, did not return phone calls yesterday afternoon.

"The lawsuit has nothing to do with the children's welfare, but everything to do with a bitter custody battle ... ," the statement said.

Christine Saverda Nielson, a Towson attorney representing the plaintiff "Jane Doe," said she had obtained a court order preventing Hooper from having contact with the children.

She said his attempts to dismiss the suit as part of a custody battle were "simply a smoke screen."

Nielson said the suit was filed in part because the county Sheriff's Office dropped a criminal investigation in 1999 into the abuse allegations without interviewing Hooper.

But Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Ginger Rigney said all cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors are referred to the county's Child Advocacy Center, which then investigates. Based on that investigation, the Harford County state's attorney's office decides whether to prosecute, she said.

Teresa Garland, chief of child abuse services for the state's attorney's office, said that "all cases that come through the center are confidential. I can neither confirm nor deny whether there was any police investigation."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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