Trial begins for JROTC instructor accused of sexual assault of former student

Former student changes her account while on the stand in first day of testimony

November 01, 2010|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

An 18-year-old who told relatives and police that she twice had consensual sexual encounters with a Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps instructor over a two-day period last May while she was a high school student changed her account on the witness stand Monday, testifying that there had been three encounters.

The woman, who was 17 at the time of the alleged incidents and about to graduate from Atholton High School in Columbia, told a jury that Sgt. Charles Ray Moore of Bowie told her to go into the supply closet of the JROTC room at the Columbia school on three successive days last spring, kissing and fondling her the first two days and having sexual intercourse with her on the third.

The Baltimore Sun does not identify victims of alleged sexual assaults.

The first encounter was something that the woman had previously not disclosed, even to prosecutors trying to convict the 52-year-old Moore, who was charged with sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of fourth-degree sex offense.

In her opening statements, Assistant State's Attorney Susan Weinstein said "this is a case about trust … and a complete betrayal of that trust by a teacher to a student." Weinstein said that Moore had gone from JROTC instructor to mentor to "father figure" during the student's four years in the program. Weinstein said that during the student's senior year, she and Moore "got even closer."

Weinstein said that the young woman first told her older sister and a cousin about the encounters with Moore and that her aunt found out and told the woman's mother. In turn, the woman's mother notified school officials, who along with the woman's mother, confronted her. When the young woman told them "what they heard was true," police were called, and Moore was later arrested.

But Thomas Morrow, Moore's attorney, told the jury, "Our defense is not that it is OK or appropriate. Our defense is that it did not happen."

Morrow said that when police technicians gathered evidence from the supply closet, they found a handprint belonging to the woman and traces of semen. But after taking a DNA sample from Moore, it was determined that the semen was not Moore's, and there were no traces of his DNA found in the room used to house JROTC uniforms and equipment.

Morrow also spoke of an exemplary 20-year military career in which his client served in the presidential ceremony detail at the White House, was a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, and was part of the detail at Dover Air Force that helped bring the caskets of soldiers killed in battle back to their families.

"He was a soldier's soldier," Morrow said.

Before the former student's testimony, Judge Timothy McCrone allowed Morrow to call his first witness, a former JROTC student at Atholton who is now in his second year at West Point. Cadet Jeffrey Easterling of Columbia said that Moore "was nothing but professional" and that Moore was a reason he pursued a career in the military.

But under cross-examination by Weinstein, Easterling said he wasn't present when the alleged incidents took place.

The sexual intercourse was alleged to have happened less than two hours before the annual JROTC awards banquet at Fort Meade. The woman said that Moore drove her to the banquet and later presented her with an award.

Though Morrow had not finished his cross-examination of the former student, McCrone adjourned court about 4:30 p.m.

Because courts will be closed today for Election Day, the trial is scheduled to resume Wednesday.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the judge hearing the case. The Sun regrets the error.

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