The trial for a Scottsbluff man accused of sexually assaulting a girl when she was five or six years old has begun in Scotts Bluff County District Court.
70-year-old Jimmy Darnell is charged with 1st Degree Sexual Assault of a Child and 3rd Degree Sexual Assault of a Child stemming from an alleged 2012 incident.
A jury of eight women and four men heard opening statements on Monday afternoon from County Attorney Dave Eubanks and Defense Attorney Maren Chaloupka.
Eubanks told the jurors that the victim told her parents about the incident, but they didn’t report the incident and hoped the girl would eventually forget about it. He says the girl seemingly did forget about the alleged assault until she was shown the ‘good touch/ bad touch’ video in health class several years later. At that point the girl talked with her mom and asked her if she remembered what Darnell did to her.
Eubanks continued to tell the jury that at that point, she knew what had happened, and knew that what had happened was wrong. The mother was then in a quandary on what to do, and eventually went to a therapist in Colorado and disclosed the alleged assault. The therapist then contacted Nebraska law enforcement.
The girl was then taken to CAPstone for a forensic interview, and was seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
Eubanks concluded his opening statements by saying that the victim in this case will testify how Darnell sexually assaulted her that night. He noted that the state bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that these assaults did happen, and after hearing all the testimony he hopes the jury fill find the defendant guilty on both counts.
Afterwards, Defense Attorney Maren Chaloupka began her opening statements by stating that Jim Darnell is innocent, he did not molest this girl, and he did not molest anybody. She notes that the girl’s mother was in the process of divorce, and contends the idea of the sexual assault was was planted in her head by her mother as a way to mess with her head and her innocence.
Chaloupka says the girl’s mother manipulated the girl with false accusations. She noted that the jury will see no physical evidence, no eye witnesses, or any concrete facts to show there was a sexual assault- just one young lady who wants to please her mom.
Chaloupka says the only corroborated ‘red flag’ in this case was when the family was having dinner at Applebee’s, and the girl said that Darnell touched me once. Chaloupka says the victim did not elaborate, dwell on, or continue on from that statement.
After the girl made that statement, the parents continued to monitor her to see if there were any subtle changes in her demeanor, actions, or any changes at all.
Chaloupka told the jury that the mother didn’t go to law enforcement after the Applebee’s remark, she didn’t go to a counselor, she didn’t do anything a normal person would do after saying that a man touched her.
She also contends that the statement of ‘Darnell touched me once’ evolved into ‘He touched my private parts,’ and eventually evolved into full on rape accusations.
Chaloupka concluded her opening statements by saying that the mother was looking for a way to get out of that marriage without looking dishonorable. She says the stakes now for Jim Darnell are as real as anything else.
She says these allegations are an innocent man’s worst nightmare, and pleaded to the jury by stating, “Please don’t convict an innocent man of a crime he didn’t commit.”
Testimony started in the afternoon, with Eubanks calling the victim to the stand to identify pictures of the scene of the alleged incident and to testify on the circumstances surrounding the assault. Chaloupka followed by having the victim identify additional pictures, with a line of questioning intended to highlight any discrepancies between the victim’s account of the events given on the stand versus accounts given during a CAPStone interview and a pre-trial deposition.
The victim will return to the stand Tuesday morning for additional testimony, slated to begin at 8:30 a.m.