An Ellicott City ballet teacher was found guilty yesterday of sexually assaulting one of his students during private lessons - his second conviction stemming from allegations that he abused three young dancers.
Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley found Jose Anibal Macedo guilty of sexual child abuse and three counts of third-degree sexual offense in incidents involving a female student, who was 11 when the abuse began.
"I do find and do believe that [the girl's] testimony was truthful," Dudley said.
As Dudley made his ruling, the girl's mother burst into tears. The Sun does not name victims of sexual assault.
"It's certainly comforting to know that this court, this judge, believed this child, who had to go through a very difficult process to reach some closure," prosecutor Mary Murphy said.
Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 13. Macedo is serving a six-year prison sentence for attempted rape and related convictions in the first case and is accused of assaulting a third student at his Advance Dance Academy on Baltimore National Pike.
The most recent trial began April 26, when the victim, who is now 15, testified Macedo touched her under her leotard and tights during lessons between April and May 2001 at his now-closed dance studio.
Macedo denied he touched the girl inappropriately. His lawyer, Thomas P. Bernier, maintained during closing arguments yesterday that the girl was not a credible witness, saying she waited nine months before telling someone other than her mother about the abuse and presented an unbelievable timeline.
During cross examination, the girl said the abuse happened 15 times, and Bernier tried to point out that she had only seven private lessons in April and May of that year.
Bernier said the girl, who began taking lessons from Macedo when she was 8, was tired of working under his rigorous teaching.
Murphy argued that the girl made clear that Macedo molested her on three occasions at his studio, and she told her mother about the abuse in June, when her mother ended the private lessons, but continued group lessons for a few weeks until a recital.
The girl and her mother did not report the abuse to police. The girl told a therapist, who reported it.
"If they had some ax to grind against this defendant ... don't you think, your honor, that [the girl] would have run to the police saying, 'He's molesting me, he's abusing me'?" Murphy said. Bernier also argued the victim recanted her claims in an e-mail sent to a friend, in which she wrote: "I shouldn't have said those things about Mr. Macedo." After his ruling, Dudley said it was unclear in what context the child wrote the e-mail or to what she was referring.
The case stalled after its only day of witness testimony in April, when Bernier argued that Macedo should be acquitted, contending that the prosecution had not provided proof of his age.
For a conviction on a third-degree sexual offense, the state has to prove Macedo, of the 1100 block of Taylor Ave. in Halethorpe, was four years older than the victim.
Murphy argued that evidence showed Macedo, 42, was older than 16 during the time of the abuse - he was the girls' ballet instructor, owned a business and was married at the time of the offenses.
Dudley said that the witnesses and evidence showed "reasonable inferences" that Macedo was at least four years older than the girl during the abuse.
Pretrial motions in the third case were scheduled to begin yesterday but were postponed because the defense attorney had a death in the family and was unable to be in court.
Sun staff writer Lisa Goldberg contributed to this article.