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Soldotna man re-indicted on child sex abuse charges

Coast Guard Petty Officer alleged to have choked, sexually abused local boy, 4, pleads not guilty

Posted: April 17, 2013 - 9:28pm

A 32-year-old Soldotna man has been re-indicted and arraigned on charges that he sexually abused a 4-year-old boy who is the son of a woman known to him in a case that is more than a year old.

John R. Blackman Jr., a United States Coast Guard second-class petty officer, has been charged with four counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, Class B felonies, three counts of third-degree assault, Class C felonies, and one count of second degree assault, a Class B felony.

Blackman pleaded not guilty to all charges in early April. Judge Charles Huguelet set the case for trial starting the week of April 8, but that date was reset and the case has been delayed since.

Blackman was originally arraigned on those charges in Kenai Superior Court in April 2012, but was re-indicted and arraigned this year on all but one of his previous charges following four motions filed by the Public Defender’s Agency. All but one of those motions has been resolved. A charge of tampering with physical evidence was dropped in August 2012.

Soldotna Police officers investigated allegations of abuse after receiving a March 2012 call from the child’s mother. She reported bruising on the boy’s neck, arms, back, legs and genitals, according to court records.

The child was taken to a registered sexual assault nurse examiner in Kenai who indicated the injuries were severe and would require follow up from a medical doctor, according to court records.

Blackman had periodic contact with the boy and his mother, who said she first became suspicious of the bruises two months earlier. Blackman allegedly claimed the bruises were caused by tripping and sledding accidents, according to court records. Shortly after, the mother allegedly took pictures of the bruises using a cell phone.

The mother recalled several times hearing her son crying while alone with Blackman. He allegedly would not allow her to see the boy and informed her he was handling the child’s behavior, according to court records.

The mother was “physically restrained” by Blackman when she tried entering a bathroom to see her son, according to records.

The mother said she discovered the photos on her phone were later deleted, and when she asked Blackman about them, he allegedly admitted deleting them. He allegedly told her not to call the police, because he “would lose everything,” according to court records.

During interviews, the boy alleged Blackman used his hands to hurt his genitals. He also alleged Blackman choked him, punched him in the stomach, threw him down the stairs, held his head under the water in the bathtub and hurt his arms because he was crying.

Blackman remains out of custody on bail and is allowed to work aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hickory, a buoy tender homeported in Homer. Blackman has served in the Coast Guard for 12 years and performs various maintenance tasks.

In early January, Blackman’s attorney Andy Pevehouse submitted four motions in the case — to compel court records, to dismiss the indictment based on presentation of inadmissible hearsay, to dismiss for insufficient evidence, and to dismiss for failure to allege specific offenses.

Pevehouse argued that the court must dismiss several counts based on the allegation that the grand jury presentation against Blackman was “rife with inadmissible hearsay statements.”

“The improper introduction of hearsay testimony should invalidate an indictment unless there is evidence, standing alone and uncontroverted, that would justify a conviction,” Pevehouse wrote in the motion. “In this case there was no shortage of evidence that a normal, active 4-year-old boy with two older brothers had various bruises on his body. But the only evidence that Mr. Blackman was the cause of any injury to (the boy) was (the boy’s) inadmissible hearsay statements.”

In the motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence, Pevehouse wrote that the boy’s statements, along with photos, indicate a physical impact and not sexual contact.

“Assuming for the sake of argument that Mr. Blackman somehow punched (the boy’s) genitals causing bruises or otherwise used a closed fist to injure (the boy’s groin), counsel submits this is not within the statutory definition or the ordinary or approved meaning of ‘touching,’” he wrote. “Therefore there was insufficient evidence that Mr. Blackman engaged in ‘sexual contact’ with (the boy).”

Pevehouse’s motion to dismiss several charges for failure to allege specific offenses centers on the fact that all of the counts allegedly occurred on the same date in March 2012 even though he was around the boy for several months prior.

While Blackman denies physical or sexual abuse of the boy, Pevehouse wrote, “he might also have provable alibi defenses to some or all of the charges if he knew when the offenses were alleged to have occurred.”

“... Mr. Blackman spent a very finite amount of time around (the boy),” Pevehouse wrote in the motion. “Thus the state’s choice to allege that all six counts occurred on March 5 — a date when no offense could possibly have occurred — places Mr. Blackman at an unfair disadvantage.”

The motion also moves to dismiss based on the allegation that the prosecution “pack(ed) six different crimes into two counts,” that would create an “end run around the constitutional requirement that a person be indicted for each and every crime alleged,” Pevehouse wrote.

“It also creates a potential ‘moving target’ at trial, creating likely fatal variance and double jeopardy issues that will necessitate a retrial,” he wrote.

Assistant District Attorney Angela Garay said the new indictment supersedes the previous indictment. Therefore, the new indictment resolves all but one of Pevehouse’s motions as they were based on the original indictment that is no longer valid.

“If Mr. Pevehouse wanted to re-file his (other) motions if he found fallacy in the new indictment, he certainly could do that,” Garay said.

The remaining motion — to dismiss for insufficient evidence relating to the definition of sexual contact — is still pending as it did not relate directly to the original indictment, Garay said.

“That (motion) is based on the evidence presented in both grand juries, that still remains an issue,” she said.

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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