ITHACA, N.Y — During closing statements in a child sexual assault case, the prosecutor told jurors that reporting what allegedly happened was the hardest thing the teenage victim had ever done.
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“It ruined her life,” Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin said.
The trial for Groton man Howard Leonard, 67, started Monday. He’s charged with felonies for first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree attempted sexual abuse, along with a misdemeanor for endangering the welfare of a child.
A 13-year-old girl, who Leonard knew, accused him of putting his fingers up her shorts and on the next weekend, pulling her onto a sofa and trying to unzip her pants. The crimes allegedly happened in January or February of 2014.
Leonard has maintained his innocence.
Franklin said during closing statements, “Members of the jury, the evidence in this case fits together like the pieces of a puzzle.”
She said that while it is unclear exactly when the alleged abuse happened, records show that Leonard would have been home on several weekends in January and February.
The defense said Leonard was rarely home during that time frame because he’s a truck driver.
She also pointed out that the victim has no reason to perjure herself and reporting the incidents has only made her life more difficult.
“This is a child who has lost a great deal,” Franklin said, noting that the teen has been ousted from associating with parts of her family because of the accusations.
One family member, who testified on behalf of the defense, said the victim was a troubled child. Leonard’s attorney Richard Van Donsel said added that the teen may have been having problems in her home, instigating the need for attention.
“It’s so much simpler to ignore the truth than to have your whole world turned upside down,” Franklin said.
She said the victim has maintained the same story for nearly two years, and it would have been unusual for a teen to be able to keep up a fake story in a way that convinced her mother, the police and the district attorney’s office.
“What does your common sense tell you?” Franklin asked.
The jury began deliberating just after 11 a.m.
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