In a surprising move, former state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser took the witness stand in his own defense June 12.
Under questioning from defense attorney Joe Hurley, Bodenweiser denied he ever had sexual contact with the victim during the period from summer 1986 to fall 1990.
Speaking softly with a slight twang, Bodenweiser admitted showing the boy pornographic movies in 1991. Bodenweiser said the boy had shown up uninvited in his house looking through Bodenweiser's Playboy magazines. Bodenweiser said the boy asked Bodenweiser to show him pornographic movies he knew Bodenweiser had. Bodenweiser said he did this on three to four occasions before putting a stop to it.
Bodenweiser said this was what he was referring to when he told his pastor, Duane Smith, "I did it," after the victim had made his allegations public.
He also refuted many details of the victim's testimony through photographs and records, such as when he had his black lab, Max, at his home, and when he had purchased the Ford Mustang, in which the victim had testified Bodenweiser had forced him to perform oral sex. Bodenweiser said he did not always live alone after his first wife, Ruth, left, as the victim said, saying he had three roommates between 1989 and 1990.
Bodenweiser also produced photographs of a tanning bed the victim said was in the room on one occasion when he said Bodenweiser abused him. Bodenweiser said he did not have the tanning bed until 1990 and could only have it in the living room because the bed could only be plugged into the dryer outlet. The victim said the tanning bed was in Bodenweiser's bedroom.
Bodenweiser was relaxed and responsive on the stand; when Hurley questioned him on the numerous records, letters and photographs he kept, Hurley made a joke about the show, "Hoarders." Bodenweiser said it was his favorite TV show.
Bodenweiser is facing 14 counts of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and 14 counts of second-degree unlawful sexual contact. Delaware Superior Court Judge E. Scott Bradley has yet to rule on a request from the defense to reduce the first-degree charges to third-degree. If the charges were reduced, Bodenweiser would no longer be facing mandatory 15-year sentences on each count of unlawful sexual intercourse.
Defense attacks victim’s story
The man who has accused Bodenweiser of sexually abusing him 25 years ago ended his testimony June 6 after four days on the witness stand.
On the last day of testimony, the witness admitted that he had lied to police when he told them he did not know Bodenweiser’s estranged brother, Paul.
The accuser, who testified Bodenweiser raped and sodomized him when he was 11 years old, told Delaware State Police Detective John King in an Oct.1, 2012 interview that he did not know who Paul Bodenweiser was.
However, defense attorney Joe Hurley produced emails between the victim, now 37 and living in Florida, and Paul Bodenweiser, who Hurley said hated his brother. The emails were dated Sept. 13, 2012, before the witness' interview with King. Hurley’s emails showed the victim had not only corresponded with Paul Bodenweiser, but he also received $100 from him, unsolicited.
When pressed about why the witness told King he did not know Paul Bodenweiser, the victim said Paul Bodenweiser told him not to talk to the police about their correspondence.
“You lied to police because Paul Bodenweiser told you to?” Hurley said.
At this point, the victim admitted he did not tell the complete truth to police.
The victim said on one occasion, he penetrated Bodenweiser but he did not mention this to prosecutors because he was embarrassed.
Hurley replied, “So it’s OK to swear on the Bible and lie if it is embarrassing?”
On redirect by prosecutor John Donahue, the victim said he had been forced to have oral sex with Bodenweiser more than 50 times, all while he was between the ages of 10 and 12. Donahue asked the victim if he had a record of each and every time he’d had oral sex with Bodenweiser.
“No. It’s been a long time,” the victim said.
Under questioning, the victim also said he was not truthful about where he had graduated from high school. The victim told King he graduated from Polytech High School, but Hurley produced records showing the victim graduated from James H. Groves High School.
Later in the trial, Mooney called Linda Vanderwende, an administrator in Polytech High School’s adult education division, who produced records that said the accused had applied to go to Groves but that he did not graduate.
The prosecution wrapped its case June 11, turning things over to the defense, who called three former roommates of Bodenweiser. They testified that the tanning bed, which the victim has said was in a back bedroom where Bodenweiser had raped him, was not in the bedroom but the living room. The witnesses also said the tanning bed was not in the house when the victim said it was.
Bodenweiser’s ex-wife, Ruth Bennett, testified that she remembered the accuser as a boy who would often come over to the house to play and hang out. Bennett, who said she left Bodenweiser in October 1987, said Bodenweiser kept pornographic movies in the house; Bodenweiser’s accuser testified that every time Bodenweiser abused him, a pornographic movie was playing. The victim testified the abuse began after Bennett left Bodenweiser.
For the defense, the key point of Bennett’s testimony was her statement that their daughter did not attend Frankford Elementary School, as the victim has testified. She said her daughter went to Seaford Christian Academy and that her daughter never rode the bus to get there. The victim previously testified that Bodenweiser’s daughter would wait at the bus stop in front of his home with the rest of the neighborhood kids.
The defense also called Kelly Truitt, the record-keeping supervisor at Bodie’s Dairy Market, which was owned by Bodenweiser’s family at the time of the alleged abuse. Truitt, a 35-year veteran of Bodie’s, said the victim’s mother had applied to work at Bodie’s June 5, 1986. The victim earlier testified that he did not tell his parents of the abuse he suffered from Bodenweiser because he was scared for his mother’s job. He testified his mother worked at Bodie’s for a year.
Truitt produced the application and employment records stating that the victim’s mother worked at Bodie’s for only nine days, from June 10 to June 19, 1986.
On cross-examination from Donahue, Truitt said Bodenweiser had recommended the victim’s mother for a job in a letter to his father, who owned the chain of Bodie’s stores at the time.
However, she also said Bodie’s had a bonus scheme in place that encouraged employees to recruit new people. She said the store would frequently lose cashiers and other lower-level help to the beaches, which paid more money. Truitt said bonuses were given out to employees who brought in new people who stayed through the summer. She said in the mid-'80s, Bodenweiser was a cashier and had not reached a supervisory position, something he would not attain until the early 1990s.
Finally, on June 11, the defense called Thomas Amrhein, counselor at Frankford Elementary School, where the victim went to school. He said while the victim had behavior issues and problems with self-esteem and fitting in, he was absolutely certain the issue of sexual abuse was never mentioned.