A 61-year-old Columbia martial arts instructor was cleared yesterday of criminal charges alleging that he fondled an 11-year-old girl who was taking judo lessons from him last summer.
Bernard Raymond Gilbert, of the 10800 block of Hunting Lane, was found not guilty of child abuse, assault, battery and four sexual offenses by a Howard Circuit Court jury of nine women and three men.
The Columbia girl testified Monday that Mr. Gilbert touched her sexual organs several times while she took computer tests on judo history at the U.S. Judo Club in the Guilford Industrial Center.
The girl told her mother about the incidents, and the mother called the police.
During his testimony Tuesday, Mr. Gilbert denied the charges, but acknowledged that he accidentally brushed by the girl's breasts when he reached across her to get a coffee cup.
During his closing argument, defense attorney Barry Silber of Columbia contended that the girl made up the incident because she had a crush on Mr. Gilbert and was upset that he wouldn't upgrade her judo ranking.
"Where would she come up with stories like these?" Mr. Silber asked. "Have you watched TV lately? Have you read the newspapers? . . . She's open to those influences."
Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy said that Mr. Gilbert -- during an Aug. 11 interview with a detective -- never mentioned the girl's alleged infatuation with him or anger over his failure to upgrade her ranking.