Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. yesterday acquitted a 38-year-old Westminster man charged with of 12 counts of child sexual abuse.
After nearly two days of testimony, the judge said yesterday that he had reasonable doubt as to whether the man had fondled his 14-year-old stepdaughter repeatedly since 1987.
The man was indicted after the girl told a school counselor that she had been molested. The man was charged with three counts each of child abuse, third-degree sex offense, fourth-degree sex offense and battery.
Had he been convicted on all counts, he would have faced more than 50 years in jail.
A statement in which the man said the girl forced herself on him was played as part of the prosecution's case in the bench trial. The girl and two other young girls testified against the man.
During defense testimony, the man's wife testified against her daughter, calling her a liar and a difficult child. The girl now lives with her father and stepmother.
The girl's grandmother also testified, saying the girl admitted to her that she would do anything to get back at the man, who she said was demanding all of her mother's attention.