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Monroe man found guilty of sexual assault counts

Published December 10. 2009 05:00PM

A Carbon County jury panel deliberated for about an hour early Wednesday afternoon before finding an Monroe County man guilty of seven counts of sexual assault on a teenage girl in 2007.

Merrick Douglas, 32, of Tobyhanna, was found guilty of one count each of criminal attempt-aggravated indecent assault, criminal attempt-sexual assault, criminal attempt-aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault and rape by forcible compulsion. He was found not guilty of criminal attempt-rape by forcible compulsion.

Douglas went on trial Tuesday morning after a jury panel of six men and six women were selected on Monday. Testimony concluded late Tuesday afternoon and the attorneys made their closing arguments Wednesday morning followed by the charge of the court by President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II.

Nanovic deferred sentencing and ordered a presentence investigation be conducted by the adult probation office prior to sentencing.

Douglas was charged by state police at Fern Ridge with sexually assaulting a then 17-year-old girl at a residence in Albrightsville, Penn Forest Township, on July 10, 2007.

Douglas did not testify at the trial but in a state police interview he told the investigating trooper, "I didn't touch the gril," and said he didn't know why she accused him.

But the alleged victim told a different story and gave graphic details of the assault during more than two hours on the witness stand.

Tuesday's testimony

The girl, now 20, told the jury that Douglas and another man came to the residence because they were employed by her father. The two "punched out" at the home about 3:30 p.m. with the one man leaving immediately. She said Douglas remained and sat down on a couch next to her and started to speak to her.

She said the conversation was general in nature. She said she knew Doulgas as an employee and was friendly with him as she was with the other employees of her father. She said her father treated the employees as friends and even had them eat at his home and shoot pool in the basement area of the home. She said she had shot pool with Douglas in the past.

Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Jean A. Engler, she told the jury while speaking with Douglas she got up and went to the kitchen area, which was a short distance away, to get a glass of water. She said Douglas followed her to the kitchen.

She said at this point Douglas put his hand on her skirt and attempted to lift it up. She pushed his hand away and told him to leave. She said she was alone in the home at the time and that was the first time she was ever alone in the home with one of the workers.

She said the next thing she knew Douglas grabbed her around her waist and carried her downstairs. He pushed her up against the pool table with his body and bent her over. He then reached up under her skirt and pulled down her panties. She then said he raped her.

She said she struggled and kept screaming for him to stop but couldn't get free. She told the panel she was terrified and weak. She said while she was screaming for him to stop he told her not to fight him.

She said at one point she heard the family dog barking. She said to him someone was home and he said, "Oh sh."

She said she was then able to get free, climbing onto the pool table and then jumping off the other side. She ran upstairs to her bedroom and locked the door and pushed a table against the door. She said Douglas came to the door and told her to open it. She said he told her, '"I know how to pick locks."

She said a few moments later she heard a vehicle starting up and looked out the window and saw a car leaving.

She said she did not immediately tell her family. She spoke to a girlfriend the next day about the incident. Then the next evening, July 11, she told her father what happened.

Under questioning by defense Atty. Paul Levy, she said she was scared and embarassed and that was why she didn't immediately tell anyone. She said her father first was angry and called Douglas, but hung up on him and then called state police.

She said two troopers came to the home and spoke with her and left stating they would contact her later.

She said on July 15 she met with a state trooper at the Fern Ridge barracks and gave a written statement. She said the trooper also took photographs of bruises she had on her arms, elbows and thighs.

She said the trooper did not ask for the clothing she was wearing when the incident occurred.

Trooper Eric Cinicola testified he interviewed the victim on July 15 and she gave him a written statement. He also interviewed Douglas at the barracks the same day and he denied ever touching or having any type of physical contact with the girl.

Under questioning by Levy, Cinicola said he did not request the victims' clothing because she told him over the phone she had already washed them. He also did not request a rape kit because he said the victim told him she had already showered. He said he did not see any purpose in having the clothing belonging to the girl examined because any evidence had been destroyed by being washed.

Levy continued to press the trooper on why it took four days to interview the girl, why no testing was done on the pool table or carpeting in the basement where the attack occurred, and why the charges were not filed until May 22, 2008.

Cinicola said because the defendant had been in the home on numerous occasions because of his employment, his fingerprints and DNA samples would be all over the residence anyway and that would not prove anything.

Concerning the filing of charges, Cinicola said he was transferred from the criminal unit at Fern Ridge to another unit at the Hazleton barracks not long after the incident and a new criminal investigator, Trooper William Maynard, was given the probe.

Engler also called the co-worker who was with Douglas the day of the incident.

Nelson Soto said the two went to the home to punched out. He said he punched out and immediately left. He said he returned about 10 minutes later because he forget to leave the keys to the vehicle he had used that day. He said Douglas was still there. He added, however, nothing appeared to be wrong as Douglas and the girl were talking in the upstairs area of the home.

The defense called only one witness, Beverly Hendericks, the defendant's' mother. She said she was at work in the East Stroudsburg area when her son came in to take care of a matter for her. She said he came sometime between 4-4:30 p.m. She said it took him about 40 minutes to come to her work place from where her son worked.

The alleged attack occurred sometime between 3:30 and 4 p.m., prior testimony indicated.

Testimony was completed about 4 p.m. Nanovic then recessed to Wednesday morning for closing arguments and the charge.

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