Inconsistencies in witnesses testimonies, a lack of evidence, and a witness who had motivation to lie are all reasons to find Sean Vickers not guilty of sexually abusing five boys in Batavia, defense attorney Jerry Ader told jurors today in closing arguments of the three-day trial.
District Attorney Lawrence Friedman countered that Ader "nibbled around the edges" of the case and ignore inconvenient facts.
Jurors are being asked to decide whether Vickers is guilty of sodomy (the title of the law at the time of the alleged offenses) and criminal sexual act.
Vickers, a former Batavia resident, was living in Geneva at the time of his arrest.
Ader, of the Public Defender's Office, told jurors that one witness told investigators at one time that he was eight years old when Vickers molested him; at trial, the same person said the acts occurred in 2011.
Both statements couldn't be true, Ader said.
"You have people here who just don't remember what happened and when," Ader said. "That leads to whether these things happened at all."
Friedman said that while a person's childhood memories may be faulty about dates, they aren't faulty -- at least in this case -- about the searing memories of abuse.
None of the alleged victims at any point were inconsistent or recanted their testimony about specific acts of abuse, even if they couldn't place them at the right time in their lives.
"That's not something they forget," Friedman said. "That's not something they confuse with something else. That's something that sticks with them for the rest of their lives."
Ader said only one police officer testified at trial and provided only one fact relevant to the case.
"The people did not offer any evidence to support the alleged victim's testimony from an unbiased law enforcement investigation," Ader said. "You heard testimony from a forensic expert that interestingly can explain every inconsistency as being consist with child abuse. How convenient that every possible inconsistency can support sexual abuse."
There was an investigation, Friedman said. That's how some of the witnesses were located and their stories of past abuse -- or knowledge of abuse -- were brought to light.
And the forensic expert didn't testify that inconsistencies were evidence. She explained, Friedman said, why children who have been abused sometimes lie, hide the truth, are fearful of coming forward and change their stories.
"We're not at all suggesting that this is evidence of abuse," Friedman said. "This is not a diagnostic tool. We're not saying if you find those factors it proves abuse. The purpose of her testimony is for you to hear from an expert with her speciality explaining why these things happen and don't happen."
The alleged victims were consistent in the key facts: their abuse, Friedman said.
"With five victims in this case, there is no indication of them ever retracting the allegations of sexual abuse," Friedman said. "There's no indication of peer pressure. There's no indication of suggestions by others."
Ader was especially critical of one witness, now an adult serving a state prison term for sexual abuse, who claimed to have been abused by Vickers when he was 12.
The witness has been denied parole before and has another upcoming parole hearing. That's motivation to lie, Ader said.
"He's been in prison for years," Ader said. "He's had more than enough opportunity to make statements, to contact police, to say something about (Vickers) for years, without any threats or promises. (Vickers) can't get him in prison. He can send an anonymous letter. Nothing. But now he needs to get out of prison, so he makes the allegations against (Vickers). How convenient."
The fact is, Friedman said, the witness had shared his allegation of abuse at the hands of Vickers 10 years ago, just not in as much detail as now.
Also, it's not like the witness came forward. An investigator located him and questioned him. There's no evidence the prisoner asked for or received special treatment in exchange for his testimony.
The jury started deliberations after receiving instructions on the law and the counts against Vickers this afternoon.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story left out the word "not" in the following quote from DA Lawrence Friedman: ""This is not a diagnostic tool."