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Jury acquits man of sexual assault charges

Posted: September 2, 2014 - 7:42pm  |  Updated: September 3, 2014 - 2:23pm

A Florida man who was extradited to Kenai and served a year in jail while awaiting trial was acquitted Aug. 26 on six counts of sexual abuse of a minor and six counts of sexual assault of a minor.

After seven days of trial in Kenai Superior Court, Christopher Doss, 28, was found not guilty on all 12 charges. Evidence in the trial showed that the accuser, Doss’ half-sister, suffered from emotional problems that stemmed from abuse at a young age when she lived with her mother, said public defense attorney Andy Pevehouse.

According to the criminal complaint, Alaska State Troopers alleged Doss sexually assaulted his sister, then 13, on multiple occasions at his Kasilof home on Echo Lake in 2010. The half-sister had been babysitting at her brother’s home while Doss’ wife was at the hospital, according to the affidavit. Doss denied sexual contact with his sister and provided a DNA sample to be tested.

Doss was never arrested and eventually moved to Florida at the end of 2010. The charges were brought to a Kenai grand jury in 2013 and Doss was extradited back to Alaska, according to court records.

“Doss was quietly living his life in Florida with his wife and three children and one day a SWAT team showed up at his door and arrested him at gunpoint,” Pevehouse said. “It was completely unnecessary.”

Trooper Sgt. Scott Briggs interviewed Doss’ sister along with her father about the alleged abuse. During his trial testimony, Briggs admitted he was concerned with how Doss’ half-sister was smiling when describing the sexual assault and said the bizarre reaction lead him to believe she was lying, Pevehouse said.

According to court records of the trial, Doss’ half-sister said she is not an emotional person and laughs when she is scared or nervous. Briggs described her reaction as a “red flag.”

In Pevehouse’s cross-examination of Briggs, Briggs said in other cases he’s had people go into too much detail but not in this instance. He said Doss’ sister “was pretty vague,” according to court records.

A sexual abuse response team performed an exam and DNA tests initally revealed evidence of sexual assault. The only swab the lab tested for DNA was a swab of Doss’ half-sisters’ breast based on an accusation that Doss had licked her breast, Pevehouse said. That swab showed a mixture of her DNA and Doss’ DNA, but lab expert Sara Graziano admitted in testimony she didn’t know how much of Doss’ DNA was found or whether it was saliva, skin or hair, Pevehouse said.

In trial before Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman, the defense called two expert witnesses. Carol Klamser, a former sexual assault response team nurse and professor of nursing at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Blaine Kern, a DNA expert from California. Klamser reviewed the initial exam and testified no evidence of sexual assault. Kern testified that genital swabs should have contained Doss’ DNA if any alleged sexual contact had occurred. Testing found no DNA, Pevehouse said.

Doss’ half-sister now lives in foster care in Oklahoma. Pevehouse said on the stand she smiled about recounting the allegations. Her father, Thomas Calvin Doss, said she had developed a reputation for untruthfulness within the family.

On the second day of trial while on the witness stand, Doss’ half-sister also accused her father of sexually abusing her, but couldn’t recall when. Her father denied the allegation and said he first heard about it one day earlier in court, according to court records.

“She was never able to provide consistent details about the assault,” Pevehouse said. “I believe the jury acquitted Doss because they found this was an allegation made by an emotionally disturbed young woman, either for attention or to distract her parents from her own disciplinary problems.”

Pevehouse said his client is extremely grateful to the jurors and defense team. After the acquittal, Doss was allowed to return to Florida, after spending a year awaiting trial at Wildwood Pretrial Facility. Doss said he is disappointed in the troopers and prosecution decisions that led to his arrest.

“The jury system worked,” Doss said.

Kenai District Attorney Scot Leaders could not be reached for comment. On the last day of trial, he said the state sent for a DNA test and just because no male DNA could be found, doesn’t mean there never was.

“We don’t have an obligation to put on evidence that doesn’t further our case,” Leaders said during his closing arguments.

Pevehouse said a man’s life was nearly ruined by false allegations and the case should have never gone to trial.

“If this case had been properly investigated it would never have been charged,” he said. “Historically, the trial acquittal rate on the Peninsula is extremely high.”

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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