Bodenweiser defense pounces on accuser’s story

Details of abuse vary in victim's accounts
Former state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser, left, leaves Delaware Superior Court June 4 with his wife, Pattie, and attorney Eric Mooney. BY RYAN MAVITY
June 5, 2014

The man who is accusing former state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser of sexually abusing him 25 years ago says details of his story have varied during different accounts because it is only recently that he has been able to recall the events that took place when he was a child.

Bodenweiser's defense attorney has seized on variations in the details of the accuser's accounts to raise doubts about his credibility as a witness.

Day 4 of testimony in Bodenweiser's trial began with the jury listening to the initial interview the victim gave to Delaware State Police Detective John King Oct. 1, 2012.

After hearing the tape, defense attorney Joe Hurley began dissecting the victim’s story, pointing out frequent changes to details in interviews with King, interviews with prosecutors John Donahue and David Hume and on the witness stand.

Among those discrepancies was the victim’s claim that Bodenweiser had threatened his mother’s job at Bodie’s if he talked. Hurley displayed payroll information indicating that the victim’s mother worked at Bodie’s for only nine days. The victim varied in his accounts of how long she worked there; he’s said she worked there for a month and that she worked there for a year. In his June 4 testimony, he maintained she worked at Bodie’s for a year.

Hurley said if the alleged incidents with Bodenweiser occurred after his mother stopped working for Bodie’s, what did the victim have to fear? The victim said despite her not working there, he was still fearful of Bodenweiser.

Hurley also picked on how many times the victim claimed to be molested. On the stand, the victim said 10 times, but Hurley said he told Donohue and Hume it was more than 50 times. The victim said he could not explain the discrepancy in the story.

Hurley then moved to the tanning bed story. Hurley said the victim gave two different accounts to prosecutors within 10 days. The victim's frustration, and with it his voice, began to rise; finally, the victim turned to the jury, and looking directly at them, told them it has been only recently that he has been able to recall what happened to him as a child.

Hurley pressed him further, saying the victim made no reference to being raped in the tanning bed room in a May 30 interview and, in that same May 30 interview, made no reference to a third time the victim says Bodenweiser raped him. Hurley also mentioned another interview, May 25, when the victim said he had sex with Bodenweiser.

At this point, Delaware Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley stopped the proceedings.

On the tape, the victim tells King roughly the same story that he told the jury on direct examination June 2: that he met Bodenweiser when he moved to Frankford in 1986. The victim’s family lived across the street from Bodenweiser, who became a mentor to the boy, who was around 11 years old at the time. He said he helped take care of Bodenweiser’s dogs and worked on Bodenweiser’s race car, a late model modified. The victim, now 37, said he would also play tennis with Bodenweiser.

Eventually, Bodenweiser would invite him into his house. At first, nothing happened, but, over time, the victim said, “things started getting weird.” Bodenweiser began showing the boy pornographic movies, which the victim said happened four or five times. The victim said he would get uncomfortable and leave.

However, on one occasion, the victim said he became excited and went into the bathroom. He said Bodenweiser followed him in and the two ended up fondling one another. That account however, differed from what the victim said on the stand June 2, when he said Bodenweiser forced him to perform oral sex.

In the audio interview with King, the victim said the second sexual encounter with Bodenweiser happened in a bedroom where Bodenweiser had a tanning bed. He said on that occasion, Bodenweiser and the boy again had oral sex and later, Bodenweiser raped him.

In his interview with King and on the witness stand, the victim said he stayed away from the Bodenweiser home, and told Bodenweiser he was uncomfortable with what happened. The victim said Bodenweiser told him when he got older he would respect what Bodenweiser taught him.

The victim said helater became comfortable around Bodenweiser again. He said he went back to the house after getting his uniform for junior high football, hoping to show off for Bodenweiser, who he understood to have been a football player at Sussex Central. On this occasion, the victim said, Bodenweiser attempted to rape him again.

The victim still went back to the house, however, and said that Bodenweiser continued to force him into sexual encounters. He said Bodenweiser molested him 25 to 30 times. The victim previously testified that initially he did not tell his parents for two reasons: He said Bodenweiser had threatened his mother’s job at Bodie’s Dairy Market, owned by Bodenweiser’s family, and he was embarrassed and didn’t feel like he could say what happened. He said he told his parents when he was 17, shortly before his father died, and the family agreed to not speak of it again.

“You want to know why I’m angry all the time and cry all the time?” the victim said he told his parents. “I was molested by Eric Bodenweiser.”

The victim said he told select family and friends, including his ex-wife and friends from Delaware. He said one of these friends told him to call radio host Dan Gaffney to get his story out. The victim said he also told his friend Amie Erickson when he decided to come out; however, Erickson testified June 2 that the victim said he was sexually abused when the two were in ninth grade.

The victim, who now lives in Florida, said while he was in contact with Delaware State Police, he also contacted several media outlets trying to tell his story.

Bodenweiser, who occasionally pursed his lips but mostly sat still looking at his accuser, is facing 14 charges of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and 14 charges of second-degree unlawful sexual contact. He faces a mandatory 15-year sentence on each of the unlawful sexual intercourse charges.

After the day’s testimony, Hurley, who has held court with the media outside the courthouse every day of the trial, said, “He doesn’t remember what he said 10 days ago?”

Hurley said he planned to cross-examine the victim some more on Thursday, June 5, but would cut it short. He said the victim’s conflicting and changing narrative of events was enough, and further cross-examination would be beating a dead horse.

“If that doesn’t carry the day, in terms of his credibility, I don’t know what will,” Hurley said.

While Hurley could not say what other witnesses the state plans to call, he said Hume and Donahue will not call Bodenweiser’s estranged brother, Paul, whom the victim had contacted prior to coming forward, or the victim’s ex-wife.

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