While everyone is both entitled and deserving of the presumption of innocence, when a man is charged with Sex Abuse and Endangering the Welfare of a Child, the assumption is that he did something terribly wrong. When the accuser is a 13-year-old girl, this belief is compounded, and the overwhelming majority of people will conclude he must be guilty. Why? Because there is no reason a young girl – or anyone – would ever make up such a lie, of course. Unfortunately for a recent client of Saland Law PC’s criminal defense attorneys, despite his unwavering assertion that he did not abuse his girlfriend’s daughter, it took a trial by his peers for his voice to be heard. Fortunately, however, after a nearly two-week trial where prosecutors accused our client of rubbing the young girl’s buttocks and attempting to penetrate her vaginally with his fingers, that same jury rendered a verdict of not guilty on all counts. As much as I would like to say my hard work and trial skills won the day, and that was no doubt a part, sometimes it is not an experienced criminal lawyer who enables a client to escape responsibility for his or her criminal conduct. Instead, an acquittal can simply be a just resolution on the facts and evidence, and exoneration of an innocent person wrongfully accused of a heinous crime.
At trial, the complainant, who referred to our client as “step-dad” after knowing him as her only true father figure for nearly four years, told a fantastical story of how while sleeping literally arm’s length from her mother and our client in their shared bedroom, our client inappropriately touched her. According to the girl, at 11:00 am our client climbed over his sleeping girlfriend in their twin bed before climbing into bed with her as she slept. After supposedly committing the vile act, our client whispered that what occurred stayed between the two of them, left the room, and then returned minutes later to wake up his girlfriend to start the day. At the same time, the girl alleged that our client sat in bed with her and began prodding if she had anything she wanted to talk about.
Setting aside the brazenness of climbing into the girl’s bed arm’s length from where her mother slept before returning to the bedroom to wake the girl’s mother while engaging in a conversation as to what occurred moments ago in front of her mother, the young girl never told the detective assigned to the case, who interestingly was called as a defense witness, that our client returned moments later. In fact, despite asserting at trial that our client returned minutes after the purported attack, there was no mention of this claim even during a nearly one hour taped interview with the forensic social worker. Further, the young girl failed to advise anyone, until I shared a copy of the text message, that minutes after the alleged abuse and our client’s purported return to her bed, she sent a text message to our client with a link to a TikTok video for a ride at the Meadowlands State Fair – a fair both she and my client wanted to attend.
While one could arguably excuse her failure to tell anyone about the text and even our client’s return, the accuser also claimed about an hour after the purported abuse that she asked her mother a hypothetical as to what her mother would do if she was molested. In response, depending on the time she told the story, the girl asserted her mother told her that she would believe her but in substance that their life would be destroyed, and she would not know what to do if it was a member of the family or someone close to the family. Although the girl did not tell her mother of what supposedly happened at that moment, or that it was a family member despite her mother somehow referencing the same, her own mother, who testified for the defense, said the conversation never happened. Similarly, the girl testified that a few days later, after seeing her texting a boy that she loved him, our client became very upset before telling her mother that he reacted angerly to the texts because he saw her daughter as his girlfriend. Ignoring the fact that the story changed from the girl being told directly by our client in front of her mother and then through her mother, the mother testified that this conversation also never occurred.
Hard stop. While a young person may not fully understand the impact of such words, or generally how a lie can set horrific events into motion, our client would have no longer been her mother’s boyfriend, and possibly far worse, if he actually made such a statement. As I said in my summation, to think otherwise or to believe these conversations ever occurred and the mother ignored them at the time or now denied them, is nothing short of preposterous.
Although the following did not come out at trial, the inappropriateness, bias, and actions of Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the forensic social worker colored the perception of the case and cannot be ignored. During the forensic interview, the social worker offered up and led the complainant when she stated, not so much asked, “You said that it hurt.” The girl responded “uh-huh” before moving along. Never once before nor after, including at trial, did the girl say that she was penetrated, or anything hurt. To the contrary, she explicitly said, assuming any of it was true, she did not feel pain and she felt only pressure. Frighteningly, a reading of the ACS reports written by the various caseworks subsequent to the interview perpetrated this dishonest storyline in a horrific game of “Operator” from one report to the next and reflected that our client actually inserted multiple fingers inside the girl’s vagina. Further, despite our client being in the young girl’s life since she was ten, ACS unnecessarily, and demonstrating unprofessional bias, described our client as a “paramour” in their write up. To assert these mistakes and descriptions were merely a mistake on their part, especially in the context of serious allegations, would be quite generous.
By no means am I asserting whatsoever that all, many, or most, allegations of abuse are false. What I am, however, is reminding us all that every case is unique and each one of us deserves the presumption of innocence – you or your sibling, parent, child, or close friend. Who your accuser is and the nature of the allegations does not change that analysis. And while there were too many demonstrable inconsistencies in the girl’s story as well as corroborated motives to lie to address here, even when the evidence is strong, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to convince a jury that his or her wrongdoing client is not guilty. Yet, other times, like here, a not guilty verdict may merely confirm something else. The accused was innocent all along.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The criminal lawyers represent clients in all stages of a criminal case from arrest through trial in New York City, the surrounding counties, and throughout the state.