August 22, 1995 in City

Teen Again Won’t Testify Against Father

Associated Press
 

A 15-year-old girl Monday reaffirmed her refusal to testify against the father she accused in June of rape, only to recant a month later.

The girl, whose refusal to testify Friday prompted a contempt citation from Pierce County Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Felnagle, remained under house arrest pending resumption of the trial today, her lawyer said.

“If that’s her wish I support her absolutely,” assistant public defender Sybil Vitikainen said after Monday’s proceeding.

“She’s a strong young woman,” Vitikainen said. “She’s sort of intimidated by all this attention right now, but she’s very determined.”

She agreed that at today’s session, Felnagle likely would again ask the girl to testify.

“I’m sure he will. And we’ll just have to see what happens,” she said.

“The story is why the prosecution continues to prosecute,” the father’s attorney, Sean Wickens, said in a telephone interview before going to court Monday.

“I think that the state has been prosecuting this case because the state believes a crime has been committed,” Deputy Prosecutor Joanna Daniels said late Monday afternoon.

“A crime has been alleged, and so we’re going forward.”

The girl told a family friend in June that her father - a metal worker with an IQ of 69 - had raped her on three occasions between 1993 and early 1995.

She gave the same account to investigators, but recanted a month later.

Wickens says she’s refusing to testify to stop the prosecution of her father.

He says she made up the story because she was angry that the family was moving to Idaho and that her father had shot her dog for killing his pigs. Her 17-year-old sister confirmed outside of court that their father had killed both their dogs, but noted he gave them replacement puppies.

Under the rules of evidence, Wickens said, if the 15-year-old testifies - even to say the allegations were false - “that opens the door for the state to bring on a lot of impeaching witnesses,” such as social workers and police officers who heard the original allegations and experts “saying she’s in denial.”

The idea would be to “get the jury to accept the idea that she’s lying now and told the truth the first time,” Wickens said.

“She does understand that if she refuses to testify,” they can’t bring on the impeaching witnesses, he said.

“She knows it’s the only way she can stop the state from going ahead.”

Vitikainen agreed that without her client’s testimony, “it’s certainly much more difficult for the prosecution to prove their case.”

That is not her concern, she said.

“I’m on neither side here. I represent the child.”

The girl was arrested as a material witness Aug. 9, after prosecutors heard she might flee to California rather than take the stand. She remained at the county’s juvenile lockup until Friday.

Sheriff’s detectives say the father confessed after failing a lie-detector test. On Friday, Felnagle barred used of the father’s taped confession to one sex act with his daughter because the tape did not show the man was read his rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present.

Wickens said the father confessed because he believed it would end the crisis with his daughter and enable the family to move. He said Monday the confession followed “four hours of intense interrogation.”

Daniels said Friday the confession was too detailed and graphic to have been fabricated.

Under the contempt charge, the 15-year-old faces fines of as much as $2,000 a day plus attorney fees and court costs.

“The judge is in a very difficult position,” Vitikainen said. “I’m very glad he released her from” the juvenile facility.

“I’m not sure justice is where you arrest a 15-year-old and you lock her up,” she said. “I think it has a terrible effect on someone - especially a youngster who has never been involved in the juvenile justice system.”

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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