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Coast Guardsman not guilty on one count

Hung jury on seven other charges

Posted: June 29, 2013 - 8:35pm  |  Updated: June 30, 2013 - 5:01pm

The Kenai Superior Court jury reached a single verdict on one of eight counts in a case accusing a United State Coast Guard Petty Officer of sexually abusing a 4-year-old boy. They hung on the rest of the charges.

The 12-person jury Friday said that John R. Blackman Jr.,32, is not guilty of count seven, assault in the second degree. The prosecutor alleged that Blackman held his victim’s head under water.

After deliberating since Tuesday afternoon, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on four charges of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor or three third-degree assault charges.

“Cases with children as alleged victims can be very emotional and polarizing for many jurors no matter how weak the evidence is,” Blackman’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Andy Pevehouse, said in an email. “So a hung jury is not particularly surprising in this type of case. But the not guilty verdict, like the earlier dismissal of the evidence tampering charge, reinforces that Mr. Blackman is innocent and will continue to fight all charges.”

All counts are felonies dating back to abuse alleged to have occurred between January and March 2012. The boy’s mother was dating and living with Blackman in Soldotna alongn with her three sons (including the alleged victim) and Blackman’s daughter from October 2011 to March 2012.

According to the complaint filed, the second-degree assault charge, of which the jury found Blackmen not guilty, happened when Blackman offered to bathe the victim. While Blackman was alone in the bathroom with the victim, the boy’s mother heard a scream. Blackman allegedly physically restrained the boy’s mother from going inside the bathroom. The report states the boy’s mother said her son later told her Blackman “smashed” his genitals and held his head under water in the bathtub.

In his closing argument Tuesday, Pevehouse referred to the victim’s testimony.

“If you’ve ever had to bathe a cat or a four-year-old, you know that a four-year-old may, in fact, get water in his eyes,” Pevehouse said. “He may get his head under water. He may not be able to breathe for a second, but you know what (the boy) said here. … He said he thinks it was an accident. He said it only lasted a second, ‘and I lifted my head back up.’”

Charges against Blackman were originally filed on March 5, 2012. The complaint reports that the victim’s mother found “suspicious bruising” on her 4-year-old son. According to the report, the boy was seen by a registered sexual assault nurse examiner who also found “significant bruising” on the boy’s neck, arms, back, legs and genitals.

The mother of the boy believed her ex-boyfriend was responsible for the bruising, and she became suspicious of him in February.

Blackman is out of custody. A status hearing for the case is scheduled for July 7.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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