LIVINGSTON COUNTY — A dramatic day in a Livingston County courtroom unfolded in the trial of Federick Symonds Jr., 45, who is facing sexual assault charges, including incest. Two family members testified against him Tuesday. One was the victim, and the other has previously pled guilty to assaulting the same victim.
The dramatic day began with Greg McCaffrey, Livingston County District Attorney, and Marcea Clark Tetamore, from the Livingston County Public Defenders Office, making opening statements.
“This trial is not about the typical family problems during the holiday season.” stated McCaffrey. “They pale in comparison to the secrets that one teenage girl was forced to keep.”
Tetamore, Symonds’ defense attorney, opened her statement by asking the jury to be patient before coming to a judgement. “The fact of the matter is, there are allegations of sex abuse,” stated Tetamore. “You are going to have to listen to all the witnesses and then decide who is telling the truth. This is a case of ‘he said – she said’.”
The alleged victim, who is now 18, took the stand in a calm and emotionless demeanor and looked her accuser in the eyes as she recounted multiple sexual encounters with Symonds that took place over a number of months when she was 16 years old.
“This first started when the conversation in the van turned sexual,” stated the victim, conversations that took place while she was learning to drive on the dirt roads of Livingston County with Symonds. “Then the conversation became physical, with touching.”
In addition to the alleged sexual assaults that occurred where he would take her to learn how to drive, they also happened while camping in the yard, as well as in her mobile home where Symonds would arrive drunk and sleep on the couch, and later sneak into her room.
The victim also testified that at one point she was discovered by Symonds as she was being abused sexually by the other family member, who has already pled guilty, but Symonds himself intervened and convinced other family members not to report the incident to police. It was not until later, when the victim told her new boyfriend about the alleged sexual abuses, that law enforcement officials became involved.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t want him (the family member who has already pled guilty) to go to jail, and I didn’t want the family to be broken up,” she stated to the jury.
In addition to the alleged victim testifying Tuesday, the other family member, who has already pled guilty to similar charges arrived shackled in handcuffs, and testified against Symonds. “I trusted you,” he said, addressing Symonds directly.
The emotional day of testimony concluded with Stacy Essex, a child sex abuse expert testifying on theories about why children don’t disclose sexual abuse.
“One misconception is that there would be an immediate report of any such abuse. That’s often not the case.” stated Essex. She also testified about the likelihood of sexual abuse within families, compared to abuse by a stranger. “It’s much more common for someone to be abused by someone they know. The closer the relationship, the more emotionally difficult it would be for them to stop the abuse.”
Towards the end of her dramatic testimony, under questioning by D.A. McCaffrey, the victim described her life while the abuse was going on. At age 16 she was failing school, including summer school classes, was in frequent trouble and constantly being grounded by her parents. Now, no longer a minor, she has graduated high school, attends a local college, and is studying to enter the field of criminal justice.
Symonds, the defendent, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.