Sex assault trial begins for Ga. man

NASHUA – The trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting a young girl several years ago began Thursday morning with prosecutors asking to postpone it and threatening to both appeal and ignore a judge’s ruling on key evidence.

Anthony Parker, 27, of Hinesville, Ga., faces four felony charges alleging he sexually assaulted the girl on two occasions between 2004 and 2006, when she was either 2 or 3 years old.

Parker was convicted of sexually assaulting the girl’s brother after a trial last month in Hillsborough County Superior Court. He has been jailed since his arrest last year.

Parker was caring for the children while their mother was at work. The alleged assaults took place at Parker’s former home in Royal Crest Estates in Nashua, where he lived from December 2004 through February 2006.

The children and their mother have since moved out of state, and Parker also had moved before the allegations were reported to police last year.

Parker admitted to assaulting the children when questioned by Detective Jonathan Lehto, but then testified during his first trial that he did so only because Lehto suggested his admissions would be kept confidential and that he would get counseling.

Jurors acquitted Parker on many of the charges against him in his first trial, indicating they concluded the confession was coerced, but believed the boy’s testimony that Parker had assaulted him.

Prosecutors argue Parker spoke with police voluntarily – he drove all the way to Nashua to do so – and Judge William Groff had agreed, and ruled that the recording of his interview could be used as evidence.

For the second trial, prosecutors had hoped to avoid playing the entire three-hour-long interview, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Joseph Fricano told Groff on Thursday morning.

Prosecutors wanted to play the beginning of the recording, during which Lehto advised Parker of his rights to remain silent and consult a lawyer, and then just play parts of the interview in which Parker allegedly admitted to assaulting the girl.

Parker’s lawyer, public defender John Newman, argued that would be unfair, and that jurors should be allowed to consider the entire interview for context.

Groff initially ruled that prosecutors could play the entire videotape or not use it at all, and he stood by that ruling Thursday morning.

“If the state doesn’t want to play the video, it doesn’t have to play the video. We try these cases all time without video,” Groff said. He later added, “If you’re going to use the video, I’m going to require that you play the whole thing.”

“What would your remedy be if we refuse to do that?” Fricano asked, adding later, “We don’t plan on playing the entire video, even if the court orders us to do so.”

Ask a judge what might happen to a person who deliberately flouts a court order, and the answer often would include the words “contempt of court” and “jail.” In this case, Groff said he would merely order that the entire video be played for the jury after Lehto’s testimony, telling jurors it was at the request of the defense.

Fricano argued that Groff had no authority to order the state to present specific evidence, and that to do so violates the constitutional separation of powers. Fricano said the attorney general’s office would file an appeal with the state Supreme Court Thursday, seeking to halt the trial, but Groff declined to delay it Thursday morning. Testimony continued through the day and the trail was expected to continue today.

“Courts order the state and defendants how to present evidence all the time,” Newman countered. “It’s called the Rules of Evidence. . . I think the court’s order was correct.”

Parker has yet to be sentenced for the convictions involving the boy, as prosecutors asked that his sentencing be scheduled after the trial on charges involving the girl. Court rules required that Parker be tried separately on the two cases.

Lawyers for both sides made their opening statements Thursday morning, with Parker’s lawyer focusing on the girl’s age and credibility. Children age 2 and 3 years old believe in the tooth fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and making wishes on birthday candles, he said.

“The state will offer you testimony of a 6-year-old girl, talking about things that happened when she was 2 or 3 years old,” Newman said. “It is not true. It did not happen. . . . The fact that she repeats it (in court) does not make it true.”

Newman acknowledged that Parker admitted to assaulting the girl, but said he did so because he was physically and mentally exhausted, and because Lehto implied he would only be required to get counseling if he confessed.

Fricano stressed Parker’s admissions, which included this statement: “I had this urge to feel someone else’s touch.”

“In the entire three-hour interview, not one single time does the defendant deny these accusations,” Fricano told jurors, adding later, “There was no false confession.”