Jury deliberates in Bodenweiser case

Accused undergoes intense cross examination
Eric Bodenweiser, accompanied by his wife, Pattie, leaves Delaware Superior Court in Georgetown June 13 after the jury deliberated for two hours without reaching a verdict. The jury resumed deliberation Monday, June 16. BY RYAN MAVITY
June 16, 2014

Jury deliberations continued all day June 16 in the sexual abuse case of former state Senate candidate Eric Bodenweiser.

The case went to the jury June 13, but two hours of deliberation yielded no verdict. Following the weekend, the jury reconvened in Delaware Superior Court in Georgetown.

The original charges in the case have been revised; Bodenweiser now faces 10 counts of first-degree unlawful sexual intercourse and five counts of second-degree unlawful sexual contact. The jury also has the option of convicting Bodenweiser on third-degree unlawful sexual intercourse charges instead of first-degree; the lesser charge carries a 2-to-25 year jail sentence instead 20 years to life.

Prosecutor John Donahue delivered the state's closing remarks. Providing a backdrop was a picture of the accuser as a 12-year-old boy, the accuser's age when he says Bodenweiser abused him, projected on a screen.

Donahue said the victim was a chubby kid who had trouble fitting in, who had an alcoholic father and was looking for a role model. Bodenweiser, he said, took advantage of him and used him for his own sexual gratification.

Donahue said the abuse lasted for three years, and that while the victim's memory of events was somewhat spotty, he had produced markers of what occurred at Bodenweiser's hands. Among those markers, Donahue said, was the bathroom, where the victim said Bodenweiser first forced him to perform oral sex; the tanning bed he said was in the room when Bodenweiser abused him, and a green football jersey he said he was wearing on another occasion when he went to Bodenweiser's home.

Donahue said the victim had buried his memories of abuse until he saw Bodenweiser's picture after Bodenweiser won the 19th District Republican primary in September 2012.

Donahue cited Bodenweiser's admission to his pastor, Duane Smith, that "I did it," as an admission of guilt. He then questioned Bodenweiser's story on the witness stand, that Bodenweiser had showed his accuser adult movies on three or four occasions but never did anything sexual.

"Why would an adult male show a 14-year old a pornographic movie?" Donahue asked.

Defense denies allegations

Closing for the defense was attorney Eric Mooney, who pointed out the many changes in the details of the victim's story, although Delaware State Police Detective John King had told him details were important.

Mooney went through each of the five major incidents the victim said happened to him and pointed out inconsistencies in each version.

"Which version does the state want you to believe?" Mooney asked the jury.

Mooney displayed a board showing inconsistencies the victim has admitted to, among them where he went to high school, saying he did not know Bodenweiser's brother although he had email exchanges with him, and statements that he completed probation requirements in Florida for a battery plea.

Mooney suggested to the jury that the victim's motivation was financial compensation, based on his hiring an attorney to possibly sue Bodenweiser.

Mooney said the events the victim described were factually impossible. He said the victim's markers – the Ford Mustang Bodenweiser owned, the race car in the back yard and the tanning bed in Bodenweiser's house – were not at the home during the time the victim said the abuse occurred.

Mooney produced another board, saying "Where is the proof?" of documents the victim says he had but did not produce, such as pay stubs showing how long his mother worked at Bodie's Dairy Market, his proof of high school graduation and proof he completed his Florida probation requirements.

In his rebuttal, prosecutor David Hume said the details of the victim's memory ran together because of continuous abuse he suffered at Bodenweiser's hands. Hume called Bodenweiser's story – that he only showed the boy a pornographic movie – ridiculous and a red herring intended to confuse the jury.

"It's a patchwork quilt full of holes. It defies reality," Hume said of Bodenweiser's testimony. "This child, and his innocence, were ended by Eric Bodenweiser."

Hume also dismissed the idea that the victim was after money, saying the victim has had to tell the world he was forced to perform oral and anal sex at the hands of Bodenweiser.

"Not going to make a buck doing that," Hume said.

Bodenweiser takes the stand

Before closing arguments began,  Bodenweiser took the stand, facing pointed cross-examination from Hume.

Hume's questioning was relentless as he attacked Bodenweiser's admission that he'd shown pornography to a minor and his statements to Smith, Bodenweiser's pastor at Sussex County Bible Church.

On direct examination from defense attorney Joe Hurley, Bodenweiser appeared calm and at ease as he deflected allegations from his accuser, now a 37-year-old man living in Florida, noting checks, photos and records he had kept in the 25 years since the time he is accused of abusing the boy.

One of Hume's first questions was, "Were you attracted to young men?" Bodenweiser chuckled and said no, he was not. Hume questioned Bodenweiser about a check he had written to a store called Adam and Eve, which Bodenweiser struggled to admit sold sexual supplies.

"You don't have a good memory of this entry?" Hume asked.

"No," Bodenweiser replied.

Hume then zeroed in on Bodenweiser's admission that he had shown pornography to his accuser in 1991. On direct examination, Bodenweiser said the boy had come into his house uninvited and had taken Bodenweiser's Playboy magazine. Bodenweiser said he engaged in a struggle with the teen to get his magazine back, but he hesitated to call it a fight or altercation.

In exchange for the magazine, Bodenweiser said, the boy asked to see some adult videos Bodenweiser had, and Bodenweiser showed them. He said the boy came back three or four more times, and Bodenweiser showed him porn, but Bodenweiser testified he then stopped showing any more.

Hume asked Bodenweiser why he had not called the police on the boy for trespassing, but he had his ex-girlfriend Melinda Hill arrested when she had broken into his home to retrieve some of her things.

Bodenweiser struggled to explain why he showed the boy pornography, a point Hume zeroed in on.

"So it's your own free will that you let a 14-year-old boy watch an adult movie in your living room?" he asked.

Bodenweiser said he stopped showing the boy adult videos when he realized he could get in trouble for doing it.

"What was the proper age to show a child pornography?" Hume asked.

Hume then shifted to Bodenweiser's testimony that the race car, or hobby car as Bodenweiser called it, which the victim said was in the driveway at the time the abuse occurred, was actually hidden under a tarp during that time. When Bodenweiser said no one could see the car that well because of the tarp, Hume said witnesses Mark Hickman and Charles Hall remembered seeing it.

Hume's cross-examination then focused on Bodenweiser's statements to Smith Oct. 5, 2012. Bodenweiser had already been made aware that his accuser had reached out to talk radio host Dan Gaffney. On Sept. 25, Gaffney called Bodenweiser and told him about the accuser's call. Bodenweiser said he asked Gaffney for the victim's contact information to confront him about why he was making up allegations Bodenweiser sexually abused him.

Hume then moved to the conversation with Smith. Hume said Bodenweiser told Smith, "I might be in some trouble," then told him "I did it. There's some there, there." Hume said Bodenweiser told Smith this knowing the allegations were about sexual molestation. Bodenweiser said he was referring to showing the boy adult movies.

Hume asked Bodenweiser why he specifically mentioned oral sex to Smith; Bodenweiser said he was referring to what was on the videos and that he did not think Smith understood what he was talking about. Bodenweiser also said he did not think the pastor was listening to him at the time. Hume scoffed at this notion, saying Smith was Bodenweiser's spiritual advisor, and the two often talked during Bodenweiser's 2012 campaign.

"You mentioned oral sex because that's what you had him [the victim] perform on you, right?" Hume asked. Bodenweiser denied the charge, but Hume pointed to testimony from Smith that Bodenweiser acknowledged that oral sex with the boy had occurred.

Bodenweiser said he found out he was charged Oct. 22, but he said he had never seen the indictment, despite securing the services of an attorney and posting a $250,000 bond.

"You posted a $250,000 bond but didn't check what the charges were?" Hume said.

The questioning then went to Bodenweiser's reaction to the charges; first, Bodenweiser said he was visited by friend and Sussex County Sheriff Jeff Christopher in the presence of Smith. Bodenweiser said he told Smith he was planning to tell Christopher what really happened but did not. Smith testified earlier in the trial he told Bodenweiser not to tell Christopher without talking with his attorney first.

On Nov. 19, Bodenweiser issued a press release denying all the charges. Smith testified he told Bodenweiser to retract that press release, which Bodenweiser did. Hume then questioned Bodenweiser on his idea to plead not guilty in court, be acquitted and then confess to the church. Bodenweiser said it was his intention to tell the church what really happened.

Speaking after court ended for the day, Mooney said it had been Bodenweiser's decision to testify and that the decision had been made the day before.

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