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Jury finds New Windsor man guilty of raping 6-year-old girl, not guilty on 3 other charges

Jay B. Eline
Jay B. Eline (Courtesy photo)

After a three-day trial and about one hour of deliberation, a jury found a New Windsor man guilty of four of seven charges lodged against him, including second-degree rape and sexual abuse of a 6-year-old girl, according to the prosecutor.

Jay B. Eline, 55, was found guilty of one count each of second-degree rape, second-degree assault, third-degree sex offense and sex abuse of a minor, prosecutor Amy Ocampo of the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office said in an interview Wednesday evening. Eline was charged May 21 with sex abuse of a minor, and two counts each of second-degree rape, second-degree assault, and third-degree sex offense. Eline is being held until his sentencing June 3, Ocampo said.

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Eline will be held at the Carroll County Detention Center until he is sentenced on June 3, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The trial began Monday afternoon, and the child, now 7, testified about the abuse in court Tuesday, along with her mother and grandmother. The child spoke of pizza and movie nights she attended alone with Eline in his camper next to the house where her grandmother lived.

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Closing statements were made before 4 p.m. Wednesday, then the jury of seven women and five men adjourned to deliberate. The jury announced its verdict just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to Ocampo.

The charges that the jury found Eline not guilty of were said to have occurred on or about Valentine’s Day 2019, according to Ocampo. The charges he was convicted of occurred on or about April 22, 2019, except for the charge of sex abuse of a minor, which occurred between Feb. 14 and April 22, 2019. The child’s family testified there were movie nights on Feb. 14 and April 22 in 2019.

Interviews with the child

Ocampo on Wednesday presented a video recording of an interview between a social worker and the child on the afternoon of May 14. Ocampo first tried to show the video to the jury Tuesday, but there were technical difficulties. The jury heard audio on Tuesday of an interview between the child and the social worker on the morning of May 14, but the video of the afternoon interview was shown to the jury for the first time Wednesday.

In the video of the afternoon interview, Kara Finamore, child protective services supervisor with Carroll County Department of Social Services, interviewed the child about what happened to her with Eline.

The video showed the child and Finamore in a small room with cushioned chairs, a drawing board with paper, a desk and a mirror. Finamore testified in person Tuesday that Det. Jill Moore was behind the two-way mirror during the interview, at the Carroll County Advocacy and Investigation Center. Moore is a Carroll County Sheriff’s Office detective who handles child sex abuse cases.

In the video, one of the first things the child uttered was, “Now my mommy doesn’t like me.” The child then said she does believe her mother loves her. Finamore asked what happened. The child said her mother told her that she was “disappointed” because the child wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about what “Mr. Jay” did.

The child refers to Eline as Mr. Jay.

Finamore and Moore testified in person that the child’s mother was called to bring the child from school to the advocacy center to be interviewed for a second time May 14, after the two of them interviewed her at school earlier that day. Neither Finamore nor Moore said they were with the child and her mother during the car ride, so they did not have first-hand knowledge of what the mother might have said to the child.

In the second interview, the child’s answers to Finamore’s questions varied. At times, she said Eline “forced” her to touch his “private part” and Eline did things of a sexual nature to her, though not intercourse. In the same interview, the child also said nothing happened and she did not touch Eline.

Finamore left the room for a few minutes, returned and told the child she spoke to her mother, who said it was OK for the child to talk to Finamore. When Finamore mentioned statements the child made earlier that day during their interview at school, the child said she did not do those things.

“This morning at school you told me something a little bit different,” Finamore said in the video.

Throughout the approximately 45-minute video, the child walked around the room, moving from one chair to another and asking to draw on the board, which she did. When the child noticed a camera in the room, she leaped into a chair and seemed to cower, saying she didn’t like cameras. Finamore asked why. The child said someone once took a picture of her without asking, but said Eline never took her picture.

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The day before, Ocampo presented 31 photos of the child that were found on Eline’s computer in his camper through a search and seizure warrant.

After the video was shown to the jury, Lee McNulty, the attorney representing Eline, cross-examined Moore. He asked her why they chose to interview the child at the school instead of at the advocacy center first.

Moore testified she “had concerns” that “her parents could influence her statement." McNulty asked whether Moore thought the parents might put ideas in the child’s head. Moore said no, her concern was that the child’s parents might prevent her from telling her story.

“It was tainted, the second interview,” Moore said.

Moore also served the search and seizure warrant on Eline’s camper, which rests in the bed of his pickup truck and is parked near the child’s grandmother’s house. The family had given Eline permission to stay there and he was often involved in family gatherings, the grandmother testified Tuesday.

In answering McNulty’s questions, Moore said that when she first went looking for Eline she learned he was out of state and he returned about one month later. Moore testified she served the search and seizure warrant May 21, but did not personally arrest Eline, who was not at his camper when he was arrested.

Closing statements

During their last message to the jury before deliberation, both Ocampo and McNulty urged the jurors to reach their verdict based on the child’s testimony, though they viewed the child’s credibility differently.

In her 30-minute closing statement, Ocampo presented a slideshow with some of the photos found on Eline’s computer, a few of them depicting the child and Eline together. She said Eline took advantage of the child’s family’s generosity and trust.

“You can almost see in those photos ... a progression of their relationship,” Ocampo said.

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The things the child described in her testimony Tuesday and in the video and audio recordings are adult things a child of her age should not know, Ocampo told the jury. There were “blurred lines” between the child and Eline, she said.

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The question of why the child’s family did not report the abuse immediately was answered, Ocampo said, referring to the child’s mother’s testimony. The mother testified Tuesday that she was molested as a young child, has struggled with depression and was shocked when her child confided in her, so she wanted time to get her head on straight before reporting the abuse.

While the child could not recall specifically when the movie nights occurred, Ocampo said children often struggle to remember dates. Instead, she pointed to the mother’s and grandmother’s testimonies, when they said movie nights were held just after Easter and on Valentine’s Day.

As for the child’s demeanor in the second interview with Finamore, Ocampo said the child is a “pleaser” and was affected by her mother expressing disappointment in her.

“You can see the impact that had on [the child],” Ocampo said.

Ocampo described the child as a rule follower, saying that Eline took advantage of this part of her personality when he made a rule that the child had to be naked to watch movies in his bed, as the child said in the first interview with child protective services.

In his 40-minute closing statement, McNulty expressed doubt of the child’s credibility, noting the contradictions she made during her interviews with child protective services. He reminded the jury that the child told Finamore that Eline had not taken a picture of her, when there is evidence that he did. McNulty suggested Finamore’s interview of the child was not scientific and that she asked leading questions.

McNulty told the jury they had to determine that Ocampo proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the offenses occurred on the dates alleged. He suggested testimony failed to show abuse occurred on Valentine’s Day. The grandmother testified Tuesday that the child was supposed to go to the movies and to a restaurant with Eline that evening, and the child talked about her dinner afterward.

The jury found Eline not guilty of the charges relating to the allegations about Valentine’s Day of 2019.

McNulty reminded the jury that the grandmother testified the child at first said what Eline did to her happened in a dream. In her rebuttal, Ocampo noted the grandmother said the child said it was a dream because she was afraid to get in trouble.

Testimony revealed Eline was away from his camper for about one month before his arrest, McNulty said, and it is unknown who might have had access to it while he was away from it.

McNulty also pointed to the conversation the child had with her mother prior to her second interview.

“We don’t know if there were any pressures,” McNulty said.

In her rebuttal, Ocampo asserted the trial came to be because the child spoke the truth after she learned a lesson about physical boundaries in health class May 10, the day her teachers reported what the child said, leading to child protective services becoming involved.

“We are here because [the child] spilled the beans,” Ocampo said.

In a Thursday news release, State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo expressed gratitude to investigators and the prosecutor in the case, and said, “we were able to secure this conviction because this young victim was brave enough to testify.”

Prior to the jury reaching its verdict, McNulty told the Times he would not want to comment once a verdict is reached. Ocampo said the State’s Attorney’s Office would likely issue a comment Thursday.

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