Tonawanda News

October 23, 2013

Sex abuse trial begins

By Amy Wallace amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — Opening statements began Tuesday in Niagara County Court in the trial of a North Tonawanda man accused of sexually abusing his stepdaughter.

Bradley McNamara, 39, of Division Street, was arrested back in January, after the alleged victim told a friend that she was sexually abused. McNamara allegedly began abusing the girl when she was 11 years old in 2011 and continued for two and a half years, according to the prosecution. 

A Niagara County grand jury charged McNamara with second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, two counts of second-degree criminal sexual act, attempted second-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child in its indictment.

The now 14-year-old girl confided in a friend who convinced her to tell a school guidance counselor about the alleged abuse, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert Zucco. 

“The (victim) will testify that she shared a room with her younger sister, McNamara’s biological child, when the abuse began,” Zucco said in his opening statement. 

“She will tell you that the normal bedtime routine changed sometime around the spring of 2011 when the defendant’s hands began to linger on her body, move to her chest and wander further down. The conduct then progressed from there.”

McNamara, who is being represented by attorney Robert Berkun, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

McNamara, who is a co-owner of Juicy Vapor, an electronic cigarette company on Niagara Falls Boulevard, has been free awaiting trial after posting $30,000 bail. 

The prosecution laid out a timeline of the alleged sexual abuse for the jury of eight women and four men.

“The abuse escalated in the fall of 2011 when the family moved to Remington Street in North Tonawanda,” Zucco said. “The contact became unmistakable at this point.”

Zucco said that by September 2012, the abuse escalated to oral sexual contact.

“The defendant was now embolden to take this further,” Zucco said, describing in graphic detail how McNamara allegedly performed oral sex on the alleged victim and tried to have her perform oral sex on him.

According to Zucco, the attempted rape charge came after alleged encounters in January.

The endangering the welfare of a child charge stemmed from the alleged purchase and use of an artificial sexual device.

“The (victim) eventually decided to tell someone about the abuse after the attempted sexual intercourse,” Zucco said.

The prosecution will call the school guidance counselor, police Detective Lt. Karen Smith, the girl’s mother and two expert’s in child sexual abuse to testify. The victim is expected to face her alleged abuser in court and testify Wednesday. 

According to the prosecution, the girl’s mother tried to assist in the investigation by providing bed sheets and computers to the police to test for evidence. The bed sheets tested negative for semen and no child pornography was found on the defendant’s computer, Zucco stated. 

But he added that the lack of evidence only corroborates her story because no one ever accused McNamara of having child pornography and illustrates the type of alleged abuse.

The defense contends that McNamara is not guilty, pointing to the lack of physical evidence or eyewitness testimony to corroborate the victim’s claims of sexual abuse.

“Obviously these charges are very serious,” Berkun said in the defense’s opening statement.

“The (victim’s) story is a fantasy, it’s inconceivable. Mr. Zucco made a tremendous amount of excuses as to why there is no physical evidence in this case. That’s because it didn’t happen.”

Berkun said the alleged victim told police the abuse took place over 250 times, yet no other members of the household heard or saw anything.

“The younger sister, who shared a room with the alleged victim, told police she heard nothing,” Berkun said. 

“My client’s adult son stayed in the bedroom just 20 feet away and heard nothing. The bed sheets that the victim’s mother said she hadn’t washed in 30 days, had no evidence found on them. There was no child pornography found on the defendant’s computer.”

Berkun said that the physical examination of the alleged victim showed no bruising or forced sexual contact.

“We do know that she started asking about her biological father right around the time when the allegations were alleged to take place,” Berkun said. “Her mother ignored her requests. She also saw her guidance counselor at school 10-12 times during her seventh grade year and never once mentioned any alleged abuse.”

Berkun said that then in her eighth grade year, she did start bringing up wanting to see her biological father to the guidance counselor and that her younger half-sister began teasing her for not having a dad.

Berkun alluded to these incidents as possibly being what caused the girl to make the claims against McNamara.

The trial is expected to continue Wednesday.