Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong denied a motion Tuesday to hold a special hearing in the case of a 64-year-old man accused of having sexual intercourse with a 6-year-old child.
Citing case law from 2010, Wilfong said the jury -and not her - should and would be the ultimate judge of validity of the child's testimony in the case of Edward Slaubaugh of Montrose.
"In a nutshell, we don't get into a taint hearing for adults, so why would we get into a taint hearing for children?" Wilfong said, referencing the 2010 case. Furthermore, the child has already been found competent to testify via a psychological evaluation, the judge added.
A taint hearing is a special pretrial hearing held when a question arises about whether a particular witness' testimony has been tainted, or contaminated.
Slaubaugh's attorney, James Hawkins, had previously raised concerns about the child's testimony being tainted, saying he had received information from the Elkins Family Counseling Center indicating the girlfriend of the child's father had been "coaching her" about what to say in court.
On Tuesday, Hawkins reiterated those concerns, saying the child's conversations with her father's girlfriend could have altered her understanding of what happened.
"The counselor at Elkins Family Counseling basically recorded that the girlfriend of the father was going over what 'on,' 'in,' etc. mean in reference to (sexual) intrusion," Hawkins said. "There is a concern that this help might contaminate any testimony the alleged victim could bring in the case."
Special prosecuting attorney Ray LaMora said there were "no allegations anyone coached the child to lie."
"It was just giving names to things, not telling her what happened," LaMora said, "but it's not appropriate and we (LaMora and the child's guardian ad litem Heather Weese) have addressed that and that has stopped."
Although she denied the defense's motion for a taint hearing, Wilfong granted Hawkins' motion that all records from Elkins Family Counseling Center pertaining to the reliability of the child's testimony or her suggestibility be turned over to Hawkins.
"I think the right to have them outweighs the right to privacy," Wilfong said, "but Mr. Hawkins is not to further disseminate them, and they will be shredded after the trial."
The case is set for May 22 and May 24; however, a pretrial conference has been scheduled for 9 a.m. May 14. Wilfong advised Slaubaugh that the pretrial conference was his last opportunity to enter into a plea agreement with the prosecution, should he wish to do so.
In November 2012, Slaubaugh was indicted on one felony count of first-degree sexual assault, one felony count of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian and one felony count of first-degree sexual abuse.
According to the indictment, Slaubaugh allegedly had sexual intercourse with the victim and forced the victim to engage in a lewd sexual act on Sept. 17, 2011.
The child was 5 years old at the time the alleged incidents occurred.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.