Jury acquits man accused of child sex abuse
WOODSTOCK – A Shenandoah County jury acquitted Wednesday a Winchester man accused of sexually abusing his ex-girlfriend’s daughter almost six years ago.
The jury in Shenandoah County Circuit Court found Gemayel L. Farmer, 33, not guilty on two counts of aggravated sexual battery involving a child younger than 13 years old. The jury of six women and four men reached a verdict after deliberating for about 2½ hours early in the second day of the trial. Indictments for the two counts charged Farmer with committing the crimes sometime between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, 2012, and between Nov. 1, 2012 and Jan. 1, 2013.
Shenandoah County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola prosecuted the case. Defense attorneys Peter McDermott and Megan-Brady Viccellio, with the Office of the Public Defender represented Farmer.
Campola argued that evidence showed Farmer sexually assaulted his then-girlfriend’s younger daughter on several occasions when they lived in Shenandoah County in 2012. The alleged victim, 10, her older sister, 12, their mother and grandmother testified for the prosecution. The sisters were 5 and 7 at the time the alleged incidents occurred.
The alleged victim testified that the incidents happened while the mother was at work and she and her sister would play hide-and-seek. Campola noted and the witnesses testified, the alleged victim denied for years, when asked by her mother that any assault took place until she told the grandmother. Farmer would find her first, take her to the mother’s bedroom and touch her private parts as well as perform other sex acts, the child testified. The alleged victim’s older sister also testified and corroborated some of her sibling’s accounts. The alleged victim testified that Farmer threatened her if she told anyone about the incidents.
Defense attorneys argued that the alleged victim and her sister received much coaching from family members, prosecutors and other adults involved in the case. They also argued that there were inconsistencies between what the two children told to child-advocacy center workers in Winchester in 2016 and what they said on the witness stand. The children often testified that they couldn’t remember certain details when asked by the defense attorneys.
The defense called several witnesses to testify including law enforcement officers involved in the case as well as the alleged victim’s mother. Farmer also testified and maintained that he did not abuse the girl.
McDermott said in his closing arguments, citing testimony, that the girls received so much coaching prior to the trial that they didn’t know the difference between what they remembered and what they were told by the adults.
In his closing arguments, Campola told the jury that the alleged victim had no reason or incentive to lie from the witness stand. Campola said any inconsistencies brought up by the prosecution were minor and likely occurred because the children were asked to remember incidents alleged to have happened years earlier.
Judge Dennis L. Hupp on Tuesday granted a defense motion during the trial Tuesday to dismiss two other charges of aggravated sexual battery against Farmer. Hupp agreed that the evidence presented at trial did not match the date ranges applied to the charges he then dismissed. Hupp denied defense motions to strike witness testimony, saying the jury would decide whether or not to believe what they heard.
State code defines aggravated sexual battery as sexual abuse of a complaining witness who is less than 13 years old. A person convicted of such a crime would face up to 20 years in prison.