Jury still out in sex-abuse case

Defense says inconsistencies in testimony should clear man of charges

Posted: Thursday, February 07, 2002

Jurors today continued deliberating the case of a Haines man accused of molesting a 6-year-old relative.

Attorneys gave closing arguments Wednesday morning in Juneau Superior Court in the case against Richard Warren. Warren, 23, was indicted on two counts of felony first-degree sexual abuse of a minor stemming from four incidents in 2000 and 2001.

The case is based on allegations Warren touched the girl's genitals, hit her in the genitals with a wooden spoon and was in contact with her while he was nude.

The jury of seven men and five women began deliberating Wednesday morning.

Defense attorney Philip Pallenberg said the jury should find Warren innocent because of substantial inconsistencies in witness testimony, no existing physical or medical evidence connecting Warren with the crimes, and because the victim had reason to fabricate the molestation story.

"We would all like to think children are innocent and protected and don't know about things like this and that children wouldn't make up a story like this," Pallenberg told the jury Wednesday. "It'd be nice to believe that's the way the world was. But the world is not like that anymore and maybe it never was."

Pallenberg said the story of abuse was a cry for attention from parents who were never home. Though the family lived in Haines, the girl's parents took jobs in Skagway, forcing them to be out of town from Sunday evening to Friday night each week, Pallenberg said. Their daughter was left in the care of a family friend who had a relationship with Warren, and let him in the house. Pallenberg said Warren may have spanked her on one of these occasions.

"Take the worst thing she could think of to say about him to get back at him for that," Pallenberg said. "In connection with a little girl desperately missing her mother, a mother who's away most of the time. Is (fabricating the story) out of the question? Can you rule that possibility out?"

The girl's court testimony Tuesday differed from the original story she told doctors and social workers in June 2001, when the incidents were reported. She said Warren had spanked her with a spoon, that any touching that occurred was over her clothes and that he had never physically penetrated her, Pallenberg said. But, testimony Tuesday from the victim as well a 10-year-old girl, who was an alleged witness to the acts, was to the contrary.

"Her description went from a spanking to kissing to licking," Pallenberg said. "That's a significant evolution of events."

Pallenberg also pointed out to the jury several inconsistencies in testimony from the girl's mother.

Assistant District Attorney Dave Brower told the jury inconsistencies in witness testimony were irrelevant to the facts of the case.

"Don't believe anything she (the girl's mother) said. I don't believe she protected her child," Brower said. "It doesn't matter that she lied. Why would a child fabricate this kind of story? A 6-year-old if she wants the parent to stay home and not go away, feigning illness comes to mind. She gets a spanking from the baby-sitter, 'the baby-sitter is mean to me.' But not this elaborate story of sexual abuse. ..."

Brower said the girl had no reason to lie and that it is believable there would be inconsistencies in the testimony of a 6-year-old who has been through a traumatic event.

Melanie Plenda can be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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