Shane Casey took notes and Stacey Parnitzke folded her hands as they listened to the charges they've called bogus from day one. Monday was day one of the sex assault trial against them.
Investigators claim the married couple turned a girl Parnitzke was caring for in her home into their personal sex slave in sick bedroom games. It was a ritual, prosecutors say, the child finally revealed after only she was safe. "She will tell you that after she reported it to the police," deputy Chittenden County prosecutor Susan Hardin told the jury. "She was afraid she was going to get arrested."
Hardin also told jurors Parnitzke and Casey would make their victim act out what they showed her in pornographic movies.
"These allegations are false. These things did not happen," countered Bob Katims, the attorney for Stacey Parnitzke.
The defense said the girl's story is just that: a story, one that changed several times and is too fantastic to be true. It must have been prodded out of her, lawyers suggested, by adults caught up in disputes with Parnitzke and Casey over custody of the girl. "Other than 'he said, she said,' what else is there?" asked Dan Maguire, Casey's attorney.
This is the third time the case has gone before a jury. Jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict in the first trial. Then Judge Michael Kupersmith threw out guilty verdicts in the second trial, ruling a prosecution witness overstepped his bounds and may have tainted the jurors' opinions with his testimony. "He was smart to let it go," said legal analyst Cheryl Hanna of Kupersmith's 2010 decision.
Hanna, a faculty member at the Vermont Law School, says the fact State's Attorney T.J. Donovan moved forward with this case again shows he believes the girl is telling the truth. Hanna adds the defense may have a better sense of how to counter the alleged victim's claims in this third trial. "It's not unusual to have two," Hanna explained. "That often happens, either because evidence was admitted that shouldn't have been admitted or the trial ended in a hung jury. But it's very unusual to have the case go three times with the exact same set of facts before the jury."
Jurors are expected to hear from the alleged child sex slave Tuesday. The trial will likely go all week long, and possibly into next week. Expert witnesses are being brought in from all over the country. If they're convicted, Parnitzke and Casey could spend the rest of their lives in prison. They're in jail now, pending the outcome of this trial.
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