As he acquitted a Hampstead man yesterday of sexually abusing his daughter and one of his sons, Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. said he found no truth in the daughter's story.
"In 14 years, I've seen far too many cases of this nature," the judge said before delivering his verdict in the two-day bench trial. "And I don't think I've ever seen a victim as cool and as collected on the witness stand. . . . The court simply does not find the testimony [of the girl] credible."
After the judge found him not guilty, the man broke into a smile and began hugging his wife, mother, oldest son and siblings, who were sitting behind him during the attorneys' closing arguments.
The 34-year-old man never looked across the courtroom to his daughter, who was scowling and slowly shaking her head.
In February, the girl told her best friend's mother that her father had sexually abused her 20 times since 1991. The girl then made her accusations to Carroll child abuse investigators and social workers. She and her 8-year-old brother -- who said his father had accidentally touched his genital area while he was clothed -- were placed in foster care several days later.
The man was arrested and charged with 11 counts of child abuse, second- and third-degree sex offense and battery.
Through the testimony of the daughter and son, prosecutors had portrayed the man as a hot-tempered father whose sexual appetites made him turn to his children.
But defense attorney David B. Weisgerber -- in his cross-examination of the daughter -- got her to admit she was an angry young person with a deep-seated hatred of her father and grandmother, with whom the family was living.
In his closing arguments, he pointed out discrepancies in the girl's story. When she recounted the first alleged incident of abuse, she told of being assaulted after using the family's computer in the spring of 1991.
Mr. Weisgerber reminded the judge that the computer wasn't purchased until Christmas 1992.
"The evidence only proves what the evidence proves," Mr. Weisgerber said. "The child is messed up. She wanted out of the house."
Mr. Weisgerber didn't address the 8-year-old's testimony in his closing, but Judge Burns said it left him concerned with how prosecutors decide to file charges.
"I have great concerns about the charges against the father because of the allegations of the 8-year-old," the judge said.
"Anybody who heard this case who is a father of a 5- , 6- , or 7-year-old son should have great concern when he is playing and roughhousing with his son."
The boy didn't make any accusations of abuse until social workers and child abuse investigators interviewed him at his school and asked if he was happy at home.
At that interview, he said he was touched by his father six times, and that each time, the father apologized. The boy told investigators the touching made him feel mad.
The father, who took the stand yesterday, said he had touched his son, but only during playful wrestling sessions.
In addition to the defendant, his wife, mother and sister testified that the 13-year-old girl was a liar who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.
They said she was angry because she had no privacy, that her father was loud and demanding, and that the family didn't make enough money. She also was obsessed with getting a puppy, testimony showed.
Assistant State's Attorney Eileen McInerney said in her closing arguments that hate and anger are part of most teen-age lives.
She said the girl was afraid to tell anyone of the abuse for months because she was afraid her father -- who sells guns part time -- would shoot her.
Ms. McInerney left the courtroom immediately after the verdict and could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Weisgerber said after the trial that he will request a hearing before a Carroll juvenile master next week so his client can regain custody of the two children.