Pastor: Bodenweiser confessed to abusing boy

Former state Senate candidate's trial continues June 2
May 30, 2014
Opening statements and testimony began May 30 in the trial of former state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser on charges that he sexually abused a young boy 20 years ago. Bodenweiser's former pastor took the stand first and said Bodenweiser confessed to having oral sex with the boy. BY FILE

The first words spoken at the trial of one-time state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser came from Deputy Attorney General David Hume.

Hume got up, went to the lectern and said, “I did it. There’s something there, there.”

Hume told the jury those were the words Bodenweiser used when he met with his former pastor after allegations became public that Bodenweiser had sexually molested a young boy 20 years ago.

Duane Smith, senior pastor of the Sussex County Bible Church in Harbeson, would repeat those words as the first witness called on Day 1 of Bodenweiser’s trial. He testified that on Oct. 5, 2012, Bodenweiser told him he had had oral sex with the boy.

Bodenweiser faces14 counts of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and 14 counts of second-degree unlawful sexual contact. The trial began May 30 in Sussex County Superior Court before a jury of seven women and five men.

Smith said he had been aware of rumors that Bodenweiser had had sexual contact with a minor after the victim called radio host Dan Gaffney and gave him an interview. Smith said Bodenweiser at first denied the rumors to him.

When Bodenweiser and Smith met Oct. 5 at the church, Bodenweiser confessed there was validity to the rumors, Smith said. Bodenweiser told Smith the boy would just show up at Bodenweiser's Frankford house. Bodenweiser said one day, the boy, who was 14 at the time, brought over pornographic magazines, Smith testified, and watched pornographic videos.

Smith said Bodenweiser later told him he and the boy had had oral sex on three or four later occasions.

After Bodenweiser’s confession, Smith said he told Bodenweiser he would walk him through the church’s disciplinary process and advised him to confess to police. Smith said he told Bodenweiser the church would stand by him if he told the truth.

Bodenweiser was arrested in mid-October 2012, after which Smith met Bodenweiser at Bodenweiser’s home. Smith said Bodenweiser insisted the victim, now in his 30s, was lying when he said Bodenweiser raped him. A friend of Bodenweiser, Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher, later arrived. Smith said Bodenweiser told him he would confess to Christopher. Smith said Bodenweiser should wait and confess through an attorney.

On Nov. 19, Smith said he called Bodenweiser after he heard a statement from Bodenweiser on Gaffney’s show denying the charges. Smith said he told Bodenweiser the statement was unacceptable, and that the church would not stand by him. Smith said he gave Bodenweiser 24 hours to retract the statement.

Shortly after that, Smith said, Bodenweiser contacted him with an idea: Bodenweiser would fight the charges in court, plead not guilty and be acquitted. Bodenweiser would then confess to the church congregation. Smith said he rejected this idea.

Defense attorney Joe Hurley cross-examined Smith. Under questioning, Smith said he took no notes at the Oct. 5 meeting with Bodenweiser and that Smith’s written record of events was completed Nov. 20, entirely from memory. Smith admitted the timeline of events as he remembered it could be wrong.

Bodenweiser remained stoic throughout the testimony, facing forward and occasionally jotting notes or talking to his attorneys.

In his opening statement, Hurley admitted that Bodenweiser had watched a pornographic video with the boy. Hurley then questioned Smith's account of Bodenweiser's confession, asking whether the "it" Bodenweiser referred to was oral sex with the boy or oral sex in the pornographic movie Bodenweiser and the boy watched.

Smith wasn’t the only witness whose memory of events Hurley questioned. During his opening statement, Hurley said the victim himself has changed his story numerous times and that witnesses would testify that the victim’s account of events could not have happened as he says.

Hurley said the victim also made questionable decisions, both during the time of the alleged abuse and when he decided to come forward. Hurley said even though the victim charges Bodenweiser raped him, the victim returned numerous times to Bodenweiser’s home, and when the victim publicly accused Bodenweiser of abuse, he called Gaffney first, not the police.

In his opening statement, Hume put the abuse in stark terms. He said Bodenweiser took advantage of a young boy who had an alcoholic father and subservient mother. Hume said the boy’s mother worked at Bodie’s Dairy Market, which was owned by Bodenweiser’s family. The boy liked to go over to Bodenweiser’s house to play with Bodenweiser’s black lab.

Hume said the abuse started by viewing pornographic movies and then escalated to oral sex and then rape. He said Bodenweiser threatened to have the boy’s mother fired if the boy revealed what happened.

The victim’s family moved out of Frankford in 1991, Hume said, and at 17, the boy told his parents what had happened. Hume said the victim never spoke about it again until after his parents died.

The victim had moved to Florida, and in 2012, he saw that Bodenweiser had unseated incumbent Joe Booth in the 19th Senate District Republican primary. Hume said memories of abuse came flooding back, and the victim began talking to people, including Gaffney, Delaware State Police Detective John King and Bodenweiser’s estranged brother, James.

Hurley said afterward that he had expected the victim to be the first witness called, but Smith’s testimony was moved up because of scheduling conflicts. Hurley said the victim is expected to begin testimony on Day 2 of the trial, at 9 a.m., Monday, June 2, in Delaware Superior Court in Georgetown.