Man Guilty Of Abusing Daughter
Author: R.H. Melton, Washington Post Staff Writer
A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convicted a 51-year-old man of child abuse last night after hearing the emotional testimony of one of his daughters, now 25, who said her father repeatedly molested her as a child in the 1970s.
The jury deliberated for more than four hours before convicting the man, who also faces charges of sexually abusing his other two natural daughters and one adopted daughter.
The father currently faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and could be sentenced to an additional 45 years if convicted in the three remaining cases.
Circuit Court Judge L. Leonard Ruben ordered the man, a retired computer operator who lives in Gaithersburg, held until he could make arrangements to pay a $200,000 bond. The man's defense attorney indicated the bond would be posted.
Ruben set sentencing for Sept. 14.
The verdict was announced at 10:40 p.m. in a hushed courtroom in Rockville. The father, who had remained impassive during the long closing arguments during the day, appeared stunned and shaken by the foreman's announcement.
Assistant State's Attorney Barry A. Hamilton, the prosecutor, told the woman who accused her father of molesting her several times a week between 1970 and 1976 that her testimony was "certainly brave."
In closing arguments that lasted four hours yesterday, Hamilton and defense attorney Thomas Heeney distilled an emotional eight-day trial into speeches that were by turns dramatic and combative.
At the outset of his final statement to the jury, Hamilton pointed a finger at the defendant seated across the courtroom and said, "That man is the one who lied to you over and over and over." Hamilton disputed Heeney's contention that the defendant had neither the physical ability nor ample opportunity to molest his second oldest daughter, who is now a teacher.
At one point, Hamilton told jurors that the father "had the sex life he wanted . . . He abused her the daughter at will." Throughout Hamilton's speech, the defendant remained composed and constantly twisted his swivel chair to and fro.
In his two-hour presentation to the jury, Heeney derided the daughter's charges as "ancient, old allegations" concerning events that allegedly occurred eight to 14 years ago.
Heeney, focusing repeatedly on the father's heart condition during the years in question, said it was "improbable" that the man could have sex two to three times a week with his daughter.
"A man's life is literally in the palm of your hand," Heeney said, adding that a verdict of not guilty would "send the government a message" against the use of "stale charges."
Both prosecutor and defense lawyer agreed that the outcome of the case hinged on the testimony of father and daughter. Heeney described the conflicting accounts as a "classic my word-against-yours." Said Hamilton: "Credibility . . . is the baseline issue in the case."
Court documents show that the oldest daughter alleges her father abused her between 1971 and 1973; the youngest, 21, alleges sexual abuse between 1975 and 1978, and the adopted daughter alleges abuse occurred as recently as last year.
The father, whose name is not being used here because it is the same as some of his alleged victims, has filed for divorce from his wife of 29 years and is seeking custody of their adopted daughter and son and for assets worth an estimated $500,000.