By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK - A jury took 25 minutes Thursday to acquit a former defense contractor and Iraq war veteran on three counts of sexual misconduct against a 7-year-old girl.
The verdict at 9:05 p.m. came at the end of a daylong trial that pitted defendant Mikhail Osterfeld's testimony against the girl's.
The girl gave conflicting statements about Osterfeld's actions when she and her 5-year-old sister went on a walk with him July 9, two days before he was scheduled to redeploy to his contracting job in Afghanistan. Osterfeld, 38, was facing charges of aggravated sexual battery, taking indecent liberties with a child and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The girl's 1/12 hours on the witness stand was the centerpiece of the prosecution's case against Osterfeld, a point defense attorney A. Gene Hart Jr. of Harrisonburg made throughout the day. Hart ripped the prosecution for failing to obtain forensic evidence such as DNA swabs and articles of clothing that he contended were essential in determining what had happened between Osterfeld and the girl on July 9, the date of the alleged offense.
"When the commonwealth comes here before 12 citizens good and true and says this man is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, shouldn't they have at least tried?" Hart asked in closing arguments. "Shouldn't they have at least checked?"
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Louis Campola admitted that the girl gave inconsistent testimony, specifically about whether she voluntarily removed her clothes after Osterfeld asked her to do so before entering a creek or whether he removed her clothes.
But Campola also insisted that such differences paled in significance to the consistent parts of the story the girl gave to her parents, police, and on the witness stand.
"All she said was 'he touched me,'" Campola said. "She was not exaggerating at all."
Osterfeld, who also testified, and the girl agreed that they had gone for a walk around 3:30 p.m. and received permission from the girl's father to do so. They intended to pick berries in a wooded area about 100 yards from the townhouse complex where Osterfeld and the girl's family were neighbors.
They later extended the walk to include a nearby creek, duck pond and playground before they returned to the creek and then back to the girl's home.
The trial turned on differences between Osterfeld and the girl about what happened at the creek before they returned to her home at 5:30 p.m.
Campola gave the girl a drawing of a woman's body and asked her to circle the area where she said Osterfeld touched her with his hand. The girl circled a part of the pelvic area.
Osterfeld insisted he never removed any clothing from the girl or asked her to do so when she waded into the shallow stream.
Instead, he said, he told the girls they could remove their outer clothing and wade into the stream in their underwear to prevent dirtying their clothing and adding to their mother's laundry load.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or email@example.com