Thursday, January 3, 2008

Sex abuse claims from 1970s can be used at trial

A Blair County judge has ruled that prosecutors can use 30-year-old child sexual abuse allegations against a former Williamsburg man who faces similar charges in a more recent case.

Howard Scott Allison, 42, of Huachuca City, Ariz., has been charged with rape of a person younger than 13, statutory sexual assault and corruption of a minor.

Allison, 42, was raised in the Williamsburg area but left to join the military and since has resided in Arizona.

The alleged incident occurred in December 1998, when Allison was in the area visiting at Christmastime.

The girl did not disclose the incident until May 2006, when she was a teenager undergoing counseling for emotional problems, according to a police affidavit.

She reported the incident to Children and Youth Services, and it was reported to state police Nov. 5, 2006.

During the investigation, police learned that Allison allegedly committed sexual acts against two girls, ages 5 or 6, in the late 1970s, when he also would have been a juvenile.

Judge Tim Sullivan ruled this week that the two women, who came forward with allegations against Allison, could testify under a legal theory that permits ‘‘prior bad acts’’ into trial if they tend to show a suspect’s pattern of crime.

Prior crimes normally cannot be used against a suspect during trial because the law holds that proof of past crimes is not proof of another crime.

But there are exceptions, Sullivan stated in his opinion. Prior acts can be used to show motive or intent, a ‘‘common scheme,” or to impeach credibility.

Sullivan said the alleged acts committed in the 1970s and early 1980s are similar to the 1998 act.

‘‘We are satisfied that the defendant’s prior bad acts and the present charges are factually similar enough to satisfy the requirements of the common scheme, plan or design exception to the general rule that evidence of one crime is inadmissible against a defendant being tried for another crime,’’ Sullivan stated.

Defense attorney Phillip O. Robertson objected to the use of the 30-year-old testimony.

He also filed an alibi defense listing five witnesses who will say Allison was in another location when the alleged 1998 abuse occurred.

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