Lazaro Aleman, ECB Publishing, Inc.
It took a six-member jury 1½ hours on Friday, June 29, to find a Jacksonville man guilty of five counts of sexual battery on a child, following a two-day trial.
The jury found 64-year-old Norman Mosher guilty of four counts, as charged by the state, and a lesser included charge on the fifth count, with at least one of the charges carrying the potential for a life sentence.
The specific charges were two counts of sexual battery on a child under 12 years of age, one count of lewd or lascivious molestation, and two counts of lewd or lascivious exhibition. Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson is scheduled to sentence Mosher on Monday, July 23.
Assistant State Attorney Andrew Deneen prosecuted the case. Attorney John David Stevenson represented the defendant.
The state charged that between June 2014 and December 2015, the defendant engaged in sexual misconduct either in the presence of a minor child or that involved actual physical contact with the child.
The state built its case on the testimony of two victims and several other witnesses, including a digital expert from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and investigators from the State Attorney's Office and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office's (JCSO).
Deneen in his opening remarks to the jury stressed that only what the witnesses said mattered, not what the attorneys said, including himself. He asked the jury to listen carefully to each witness's testimony, judge the person's demeanor and body language, and decide on the credibility of the content.
“It's my job to build the case and it's the defense's to tear it down,” Deneen said. “But what the lawyers say is not evidence. What the witnesses
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say alone is evidence.”
He forewarned the jury that the defense would attempt to exploit possible discrepancies and inconsistencies in the main victim's story, but said the jury's job was to stay focused on the evidence.
Defense Attorney Stevenson in his opening remarks focused on the alleged holes in the victim's story, saying that he would present witnesses who would testify that certain of the alleged incidents couldn't have occurred.
“She (victim) will say that the first time it happened was in a hotel in Panama City,” Stevenson said. “The (victim's guardian) will say that that trip never happened.”
The victim's guardian, who lives in Jefferson County, is the defendant's sister.
Stevenson described the relationship between the defendant and victim as being a close and nurturing one. He conceded upfront, however, that his client had “a porn problem,” and that he also had back troubles that required medications that sometimes clouded his memory.
Chris Hendry, with the digital evidence section of the FDLE, was one of the state's witnesses. Hendry testified as to the pornographic content that he had found on the defendant's electronic tablet, which the JCSO confiscated as part of its investigation. The tablet, along with the digital data recovered from it and the FDLE analyst's report, were part of the state's evidence.
Stevenson in his cross examination of Hendry focused on the fact that although nude photos of children had been found on the defendant's computer, the images had not come from any website that the government specifically identified as a child pornography site.
Tully Sparkman, an investigator with the State Attorney's Office, was another of the state's witnesses. He testified that he had reviewed the 500 or so images recovered from the defendant's computer to determine if any constituted child pornography. He had found images of nude children in the bunch, but no specific child pornography, he said.
Stevenson, in his cross questioning, underscored the point that although the digital analysis could retrieve images and determine websites visited, it could not establish who was using the computer at any time, nor when the sites had been visited or how many times.
Dan Williams, the JCSO investigator who interviewed Mosher following his arrest, testified to a letter that Mosher wrote to the victim during his interrogation, pleading for forgiveness. The letter was state exhibit #17. In the letter, which was read to the jury, Mosher wrote that he realized he had a problem “that needed to be fixed.”
“After writing the letter, he (Mosher) began crying and said it was a release,” Williams said.
Following the state's presentation of its evidence and witnesses, the defense filed a motion for acquittal of the five charges, arguing that the state had failed to prove its case. Judge Caloca-Johnson, however, denied the motion. The defense then presented three witnesses. One was the victim's guardian grandfather and a friend of the defendant's, another was the defendant's older sister, and the last was the defendant's wife.
Stevenson employed a diagram of the interior configuration of the guardian's single-wide home to argue that, given the close quarters, it was implausible for the alleged incidents to have taken place without the knowledge of the others in the limited space. Likewise for the incident that had occurred in a tent in the backyard of the house one night, he argued.
Each of the defense witnesses testified as to the close relationship between the victim and defendant and the lack of opportunity for the defendant to do what the victim claimed. Each said they had never observed any behavior that was inappropriate between the defendant and victim, and that to their knowledge, nothing inappropriate had ever taken place.
“I never observed anything that gave me me cause for concern,” the defendant's wife said.
In his cross examination of the defense witnesses, Deneen made a point of distinguishing between a definitive “no” response and “not to my knowledge” response. When a witness said that to his or her best knowledge no inappropriate behavior had occurred, it didn't mean that the behavior might not have occurred out of sight, he got them to agree.
Mosher chose to testify on his behalf, even after warnings from the judge that in doing so he would be opening himself to cross examination from the prosecutor. Mosher told how he and the victim had enjoyed a close relationship, often played games together, and how he had often bought her toys.
She was “like velcro” in her attachment to him, he said. He talked also of his back pains, which he said required him to take medication that sometimes left him dazed and incapable of remembering things that had happened.
He related an incident where he had awakened one night, felt the victim's skin next to him and tasted something strange in his mouth. But he didn't know what if anything had happened or if was all part of a dream and a side effect of his medication.
There had also been the tent incident, after which his sister had confronted him and asked if he had done the inappropriate things that the victim was claiming.
Mosher said his sister had told him that if what the victim was saying was true, he needed to get help. To which he had responded that he was already seeking help through the church and finding Jesus again. But he meant he was seeking help for his pornography problem, which he recognized was a problem, he said.
Deneen in the cross examination bore down on Mosher. Was it the latter's representation that the victim had made the allegations against him because the defendant had scolded her once or twice and threatened not to give any more toys? Deneen asked. Was that what Mosher was trying to get the jury to believe? Deneen asked incredulously. Hadn't the defendant confessed to his wife that he had problem? And what about the letter he had written to the victim apologizing?
Mosher said that in writing the letter to the victim he had been apologizing for whatever he may have done under the influence of the medication, but he was still uncertain that anything had really happened. And when the victim had begun claiming that the misconduct had been occurring for some five years, ever since she was six, he had become convinced that she was making up the stories, he said. He couldn't, however, credibly tell Deneen why the victim would take it upon herself to make up such stories absent cause.