Lawyers representing an Ellicott City ballet instructor being tried for the second time on charges he sexually assaulted one of his students said yesterday that they may call witnesses to testify about the "truthfulness" of his teen-aged accuser.
Defense attorneys William C. Mulford II and Gregory P. Robinson hinted at the new strategy yesterday - a likely attempt to break the stalemate that left jurors deadlocked during the first trial last month - in arguments prior to opening statements before Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney.
Jose Anibal Macedo, 42, of the 1100 block of Taylor Ave. in Halethorpe, is accused of assaulting the girl, now 15, during more than two years of private dance lessons at his Baltimore National Pike dance studio, Advance Dance Academy.
At the first trial, jurors, faced with the contradicting testimony by the girl, who described an escalating pattern of sexual abuse, and by Macedo, who denied ever improperly touching the teen, split 9 to 3 in favor of conviction on four of five counts. After they told the judge that they were also deadlocked on the most serious charge, attempted rape, Sweeney declared a mistrial.
During two days of testimony last month, prosecutor Mary Murphy offered no forensic proof of the assaults and instead called a medical professional, who said it was not uncommon to find no trauma on an alleged victim. Defense attorneys called just two witnesses: Macedo and a parent of one of his students, who testified that she never noticed anything amiss when she saw the girl.
Yesterday, Murphy urged the new panel of jurors to believe the girl, who was a preteen when the alleged abuse started. The Sun does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
Dancing was everything to the girl, and she knew "she'd have to make sacrifices," Murphy told jurors during her opening statement. "What she didn't want to sacrifice, however, was her youth."
But Mulford said the case amounts to empty accusations.
"You're going to hear a lot about dance," he said. "You're not going to hear a lot about sexual abuse."
Much of yesterday's action - opening arguments and the girl's testimony - closely mirrored the first trial.
The girl testified that the abuse always took place during her private lessons and started with kissing. It quickly progressed, she said, to fondling and attempts at intercourse.
She did not tell anyone, she said yesterday, because she was "embarrassed." She finally told her mother late last fall after she went overseas to dance. Mulford questioned the timing of her accusations, insinuating that the girl made up a story after Macedo told her he would not give her permission to perform a dance.
"I wouldn't cook up some story just because of that," the girl said.
Testimony is expected to resume this morning and may include a visit by jurors to Macedo's dance studio, court officials said.
Macedo is also accused of sexually assaulting two other students during their private lessons. Those cases are set for trial in the fall.