WILKES-BARRE — A state trooper accused of molesting an underage girl claims the incident occurred while he was sleeping, and that he mistook the child for his girlfriend, his defense attorney said in opening statements Tuesday.
Patrick Finn, 47, of Harrisburg, is on trial for one misdemeanor count each of corruption of minors and indecent assault before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough.
Finn, a corporal at the Carlisle barracks in Cumberland County, is accused of crawling into bed with the 9-year-old girl, touching her buttocks and her chest and telling her he wanted to have intercourse in December 2016 during a visit to his parents’ home in Mountain Top.
Assistant District Attorney Angela Sperrazza described the young girl waking up as she felt Finn rubbing her bottom, apparently telling her: “Very nice” and proposing sex.
Defense attorney Peter Paul Olszewski suggested evidence will show the girl’s mother, a former romantic partner of Finn’s, coached the girl to supply damning evidence.
“Make no mistake. What was said was inappropriate; what was done shouldn’t have happened,” Olszewski said. “But it’s not a crime if he was asleep.”
After a jury of seven women and five men was chosen Tuesday morning, Sperrazza began the prosecution’s case with a brief opening in which she reminded jurors that state law says the testimony of the alleged victim alone is enough to convict.
Sperrazza told jurors they would hear several recorded statements made by the girl.
“You’ll hear every time this child has tried to tell someone what happened,” she said, noting the girl’s mother even recorded the first time the child told her about the alleged incident.
According to Sperrazza, the girl’s story has stayed consistent.
Olszewski countered that in several of the interviews with the girl, she mentions Finn seemed to have been asleep, saying she tried pushing him in the stomach and jingling bells in his face to wake him, Olszewski said.
The girl herself said she believed Finn mistook her for his girlfriend while he was asleep, Olszewski said, adding that statements made by the mother to the state’s ChildLine left out key parts of the girl’s statement.
The alleged victim took the stand Tuesday afternoon, recounting much the same story as Sperrazza told in her opening. Feeling uncomfortable using adult language, she instead wrote down the vulgar statements Finn allegedly made, before they were passed around to jurors.
In her testimony, especially during cross-examination by defense attorney Melissa Scartelli, the girl reiterated her belief Finn was asleep while touching her.
After proceedings, Olszewski confirmed to reporters that Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough had ruled in favor of motions by the defense to block prosecution evidence that would depict Finn as an alcoholic.
Proceedings will begin again at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan