Justice Michael Wood heard evidence Tuesday from athletes who indicated that they did not know of any occasion when their coach, Ato Modibo Stephens, was alone in his vehicle with the girl who has accused him of indecently assaulting her on two occasions and exposing himself to her in one incident of gross indecency.
Lead counsel Paul Keleher, instructed by attorney Amelia Fosuhene, summed up the case for the defense on Tuesday afternoon, saying there was reasonable doubt the girl had been assaulted as she said.
It gave him no pleasure to suggest that she was “telling a story” to exculpate herself from the sexual messaging that had taken place between her and Stephens; she did not realize she was not to blame, Mr. Keleher said.
Stephens was 37 when the alleged offenses occurred, and the girl was 14.
The WhatsApp messages form the basis of a charge against Stephens of using an ICT network to annoy, abuse or harass another person with indecent messages.
Stephens pleaded not guilty to all four charges, but in his evidence agreed that the messages were “inappropriate.”
They came to light when the girl’s mother borrowed the girl’s phone and saw images the girl had sent to Stephens. The girl said she had sent them because she believed if she did not, she would get kicked off the team. She said the indecent touching and Stephens’s exposure of himself had occurred after he dropped other athletes home from practice.
Mr. Keleher said it was been inexcusable that the investigating officer did not interview other athletes some two years ago when the girl’s mother made her report to police.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Keleher had received permission from Justice Wood to read a statement from one athlete and he was granted adjournments to await the arrival of two others who gave evidence in person.
All three explained where they and their teammates lived and how the coach would drop them off after practice. In general, they were not aware of any occasion on which the girl would have stayed in the coach’s car after everyone else had been dropped off.
Mr. Keleher said it would have been extraordinarily reckless for the defendant to pull off the road where the girl said he had in order to assault her at the time of day she said the assaults occurred.
In her closing speech, Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards pointed out that the alleged offenses would have occurred only on two or three occasions over an eight-month period. She said there were many variables, depending on who was in the coach’s car at any particular time, since parents sometimes picked up the athletes from their training.
Ms. Richards also emphasized the girl’s credibility. She pointed out that her mother had confronted her about the images on the phone in circumstances where the girl could hardly have had time to plan a story or a response.
Ms. Richards described what she called a gradual escalation in the phone messages between Stephens and the girl and they showed a clear desire on his part to go beyond phone messages.
Justice Wood said he would try to give his decision on Thursday afternoon, but if he did not have sufficient time, he would send it from England, as he is scheduled to leave Cayman on Friday.