A Sitka couple accused of sexually molesting children has received a visiting judge's permission to cross-examine the alleged victims, who are from 10 to 13 years old, during trial in Juneau Superior Court.
Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Michael Thompson, who is presiding over the trial of Cynthia Sky, 40, and Dick Blue Sky, 48, ruled Wednesday that the couple could question the alleged victims.
The couple's attorneys told the judge they weren't adequately prepared to cross-examine witnesses because the Skys had not cooperated with them.
One of the alleged victims, R.B., an 11-year-old girl whose name is being withheld by the Empire, took the stand Wednesday. The defense didn't question her, but may recall her for questioning later.
District Attorney Rick Svobodny said the remaining two alleged victims will testify today.
The Skys together face 37 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Dick Blue Sky is charged with nine additional counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, failure to register as a sex offender, and one count of felony misconduct involving weapons. All the charges are felonies.
The charges against the couple stem from alleged multiple acts of sex abuse against three girls, who ranged in age from 3 to 13 when the alleged abuse took place from 1994 to 2001. The Skys were arrested Feb. 15, 2001.
Judge Thompson said he would let the Skys question the girls because "I can't let these people get up here and say all these things and have them go unchallenged."
While the jury was out of the room, Thompson advised the defense attorneys and the couple.
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"It won't look good to the jury. You know as well as I do how it will look to the jury for him (Dick Blue Sky) to cross examine her," said Thompson of R.B. "You can't be confrontational or argumentative at all with her or it will look like you are attacking her."
R.B.'s relatives could be heard in court saying, "No, please, no," and her mother shouted at the judge while he made his ruling, "They are just children." She left the court and was heard screaming in the hallway.
The Skys can ask questions in court, typically a task relegated to attorneys, because they partially are representing themselves.
They've made numerous requests to remove their attorneys, public defenders Darrell Gardner and Sidney Billingslea, from the case. The Skys said in court documents that they don't trust the Office of Public Advocacy, which supplies state-funded defense attorneys when the Public Defender Agency can't take the case.
The Skys are being tried together but are represented by separate attorneys.
Billingslea, Cynthia Sky's attorney, and Gardner, Blue Sky's attorney, had asked to be removed from the case. They said their clients would not disclose any information to them about the alleged incidents and remained silent until Monday, when jury selection started.
On Monday, Judge Thompson refused to allow the Skys to represent themselves or to let Billingslea and Gardner step down as counsel. What resulted is a hybrid situation in which the attorneys and the Skys may question witnesses.
On Wednesday, R.B. was allowed to enter the courtroom through a side entrance to avoid walking past the defendants. Her grandfather was allowed to sit with her at the stand.
She testified that in the summer of 2000 she was living in Sitka and went with the Skys, who were friends of her parents, to Bauer Island, 50 miles north of Sitka.
Though some of the abuse occurred before the summer of 2000, she said, much of it happened during the Bauer Island trip.
For nearly a month R.B., then 10 years old, lived in a large tent with the couple on the island. R.B. described in graphic detail how the couple repeatedly forced her to perform sex acts with them as a sort of initiation into what they called a "club."
The alleged abuse included having her watch pornographic films and emulate the stars, dress in lingerie, and sleep in the nude in their tent. During her testimony, the prosecution entered into evidence several sexual devices, which R.B. said the couple used on her.
"They called them the toys," testified R.B. "It didn't matter how much it hurt or how much I told them to stop. They just wouldn't stop. ... I remember every time."
Melanie Plenda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.