A 37-year-old man took the witness stand Thursday to deny charges that he had sexually abused his own son.
The boy, now 8, testified a day earlier in Baltimore County Circuit Court that his father had sought certain acts as "punishment" when the boy misbehaved. Prosecutors say the abuse took place between August 2008 and June 2009, and led to an indictment against the suspect after the boy told his mother about the allegations. The man was charged with sexual abuse of a minor, assault and two sexual-offense counts.
"Did you do any of that?" the man's attorney, Brian J. Murphy, asked him on the stand.
"No," the man replied.
"Did you discipline him like that?" Murphy persisted.
"No," came the answer.
The Baltimore Sun is not naming the accused because doing so would identify his son. The Sun does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.
Murphy also put the defendant's parents on the stand and elicited from them the observation that the boy, who lived in their house in western Baltimore County for a time after his parents' marriage dissolved, had trouble telling the truth. The defendant's mother said the boy "had a tendency to lie all the time."
But prosecutor Stephanie P. Porter told the jury in her closing argument that there was no indication that the boy had been untruthful about his father's actions, and reminded the jury of testimony to the effect that the child had kept the abuse from everyone for months and blurted it out only when his sister accidentally kicked him between the legs as they swam. Porter suggested that the boy had not said anything sooner because he was afraid of more "punishment" from his father.
The boy "had a secret," Porter told the jury, "and now you know what that secret is." He had held onto it because "he didn't want to do any more of what his father made him do."
The defendant had moved into his parents' home after he and the children's mother divorced. For a time, the man had legal custody of the children — it later reverted to their mother — and the children spent much time in the house. The abuse is alleged to have occurred in the basement, where the defendant had set up his living quarters.
Porter said the accused would force the boy to touch and kiss his private parts. "It happened every time he got into trouble," the prosecutor told the jury. "Do you think that a 6-, 7- or 8-year-old could make this up and be consistent all this time?"
Murphy, the defense attorney, retorted that the boy had not been consistent, and that at one point he had recounted that a friend of his from school had been "punished" in that same manner. The accuser in this case is "a little kid," Murphy said.
"Even in the best of circumstances, at that age, you just don't want to take it to the bank."