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Defense calls no witnesses in Sitka abuse trial

Attorneys say they did not have time to prepare case; judge denies defense motions for a mistrial

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2002

The jury will begin deliberating today in the trial of a Sitka couple accused of sexually abusing three young girls. The defense rested this morning without calling any witnesses or offering any evidence.

Defense attorneys Darrel Gardner and Sidney Billingslea did renew their motions for a mistrial and a continuance as they have done since the trial began on May 13. Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Michael Thompson denied the motions. The attorneys said they would rest their case because they did not have adequate time to prepare a defense and had no witnesses to present.

According to court records, Cynthia Sky, 40, and Dick Blue Sky, 48, refused to give Billingslea and Gardner, who were appointed the case through the Office of Public Advocacy in August, any information on the facts of the case until jury selection was underway last week.

The Skys face 37 counts of felony first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. Blue Sky is charged with nine additional counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

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. Last week the alleged victims took the stand and described in graphic detail how the Skys allegedly placed one of the girls in a homemade stockade, forced all of them to perform sexual acts with the Skys as part of what the couple called a "sex club" and abused the girls with sexual devices.

The prosecution rested its case Thursday, court was not in session Friday and the trial was set to resume today with the defense presentation.

"We did make some progress over the long weekend, but we are not ready to make an argument," said Billingslea. "This case involves specific and complex issues not known to us at the time we began and are only learning about now."

The defense attorneys presented the court and the prosecution today with a list of 30 potential witnesses for the defense.

Billingslea said in order to provide effective counsel for the Skys as provided by law, the defense attorneys would need time to investigate potential witnesses and evidence coming to light since their clients started communicating with them.

District Attorney Rick Svobodny balked at the idea of more time to investigate evidence and questioned the validity of the witnesses on the list.

"It's easy for someone to come up with 30 names at this point in the game and call them witnesses, but how many of them would actually testify remains to be seen," said Svobodny. "These two (the Skys) have been manipulating the system since the beginning and now have two lawyers willing to go along with that."

Gardner "vehemently" denied the defense's latest motions were meant to manipulate the court.

Judge Thompson said the defense had time over the long weekend to bring in potential witnesses, but failed to do so, and so he would not delay the trial or call a mistrial.

The jury was set to begin deliberating the case late this afternoon. If convicted, the Skys could get up to 30 years in prison for each count of sexual abuse of a minor.

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



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