ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (AP) — Jurors began deliberating Friday in a Maryland School for the Deaf child molestation case after the defendant, a former school aide, testified that the seven girls were lying.
The Howard County jury deliberated for about 25 minutes in the trial of Clarence Taylor III before court recessed for the weekend. Deliberations will resume Tuesday, after the Veterans Day holiday.
Defendant Clarence Taylor III emphatically denied molesting the middle-school girls. The 38-year-old defendant, who is deaf, also testified that his apparent acknowledgement to police that he had touched some of the girls’ buttocks and breasts accidentally in a crowded hallway was a “miscommunication” caused by faulty American Sign Language interpretation.
“None of it happened. There was nothing sexual about anything, ever,” Taylor said during more than two hours of testimony with four ASL interpreters assisting.
Taylor was the only defense witness in the trial, which began Oct. 28.
He faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted on all seven counts of child sexual abuse, dating from 2008 to 2011. Five of the alleged victims testified that Taylor brushed a hand across their backsides or grabbed their bottoms during various school activities. Six said he swiped a hand or arm across their breasts during hugs or handshakes in which he pulled them close. Two said he kissed them on the lips and two testified he touched them between the legs.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Broten said in her closing argument that Taylor used hugs and handshakes as opportunities to molest the girls.
“The defendant used these as a ruse — his opportunity to get close to these girls so if the coast were clear or the opportunity presented itself, he could touch their breasts,” she said.
Defense attorney Brandon Mead stressed the state’s lack of physical evidence — there was no surveillance video — and said prosecutors hadn’t shown that Taylor derived any sexual gratification from the alleged acts.
“Absence of evidence is not evidence. Don’t let the state fool you,” Mead said in his summation.
Prosecutors dropped charges alleging Taylor had asked three of the girls for naked pictures of themselves. Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Broten said prosecutors weren’t sure they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged solicitations for child pornography occurred in Howard County.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)