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Newspaper finds possible false child sex-abuse conviction, Lion King labeled as "nonerotic pornography".


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http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006611020382

An Oakland County judge agreed Wednesday to review the child sex-abuse conviction of an Oak Park kindergarten teacher after his attorney argued that such an attack could not have occurred as his accusers described it.

Judge Denise Langford Morris said she needed more time to review trial transcripts and examine new evidence gathered after the September conviction of James Perry, 32, before deciding how to proceed. She postponed indefinitely Perry's sentencing hearing, which had been scheduled for Nov. 9.

Although Perry's lawyer expressed optimism, Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca criticized the defense and the Free Press, which published a report Wednesday on new information that raised questions about Perry's conviction.

Gorcyca said on "The Frank Beckmann Show" on WJR-AM (760) that the Free Press article was "full of falsehoods, distorted facts. It's completely lopsided." His office did not return calls Wednesday from the Free Press seeking comment.

Perry's attorneys are requesting that the judge either overturn the verdict or grant a new trial.

Morris said she would try to rule on the motions promptly, given that Perry remains in the Oakland County Jail. If the verdict stands, Perry faces up to life in prison on charges of sexually assaulting two kindergarten boys at Key Elementary.

Perry was led into the somber courtroom with his wrists shackled to his waist. The judge allowed him to sit with his attorneys and ordered a deputy to uncuff one hand to allow him to take notes.

She agreed to review the case -- involving boys who were 4 and 5 when they said they were attacked in an empty classroom at lunch in October 2005 -- after listening to more than an hour of heated arguments. The courtroom was packed with more than 30 supporters of the former teacher.

Appellate defense lawyer Robyn Frankel said afterward that she was satisfied with the judge's willingness to review the case: "She wants to protect the rights of all parties."

The Free Press article noted significant discrepancies in the boys' accounts and included interviews with school staffers who never were interviewed by police.

The classroom aides worked in the special-education room at Key Elementary, where prosecutors -- and the boys -- told jurors the attacks took place. The aides contend the classroom was always occupied at lunch and the attacks could not have happened there. Neither the aides nor the room's teacher were ever interviewed by police, though the teacher did testify at Perry's trial.

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Andrea Dean, the trial prosecutor, argued in court Wednesday that prosecutors aren't required to prove a precise time and location in a sex crime, but only that it happened within their jurisdiction.

"The People don't have to prove their theory, only that on or about Oct. 12 the crime was committed in Oakland County," Dean said. "We've proven that."

Dean also argued that the aides' testimony would be redundant because the special-education teacher -- Clara Geary -- had offered similar testimony to jurors.

"The defendant doesn't like the result and he wants this court to be the 13th juror," Dean argued in court. "Why could this not happen the way these kids describe it? Because the defendant doesn't like the verdict and the liberal media doesn't like the verdict."

Gorcyca, in the radio interview, argued that discrepancies in aspects of the boys' accounts did not detract from their core testimony.

"They never, ever, ever wavered," he said. "Not from the interview, not at the district court level and not at trial regarding the acts of sexual molestation. Now, do 4- and 5-year-olds sometimes get ancillary facts confused? Yes, but when it came down to the actual facts of molestation, never wavered once."

In an interview with the Free Press last week, prosecutors insisted the case was sound because the boys consistently described the attacks themselves, despite discrepancies about time and location.

"The kids were consistent throughout on the traumatic acts," Gorcyca said.

But a Free Press review found that trial testimony and witness statements to police showed inconsistent accounts of what allegedly happened.

The 5-year-old boy gave an account to police that differed significantly from an account his mother gave to police, based on her conversations with the boy. The 4-year-old denied being sexually assaulted during one interview with authorities, but later claimed that he was. Experts say it's not unusual for young children to offer differing details of such accounts because they sometimes have trouble distinguishing truth from fiction.

Gorcyca and Dean also argued in the Free Press interview that evidence excluded from the trial also points to guilt. During a previous contact Perry had with police, Oak Park Detective Erik Dolan questioned Perry about videotaping in an Oak Park neighborhood in February 2003.

Perry provided him the tape. It showed homes in the neighborhood and the remnants of a video Perry had taken inside his classroom of his students' hands and feet. He said it was a game he played with students -- challenging the kindergartners to identify one another based on their hands and feet, according to Dolan's report.

Police determined the behavior to be "unique" but not criminal. Dolan wrote in his report at the time that he reviewed the tape and "found no other unusual activity," according to his report.

However, in a recent interview with the Free Press, Dolan said the tape included other material, such as footage of children playing in front of houses and on playground equipment, which he and Dean said fits the profile of a pedophile. Perry has said he was taping the neighborhood for a presentation he was to make to the school board about housing patterns in the district.

Asked why he didn't include that information in the report he filed at the time, Dolan said it seemed irrelevant. "I didn't feel the need to chronicle every noncriminal activity on the tape," he said during the Free Press interview.

Authorities searched Perry's house after his arrest in February and found no pornography. They seized videos, including "The Lion King" and "Harry Potter" -- materials that prosecutors, outside the jury's presence, portrayed as being "nonerotic pornography."

Perry was returned to the Oakland County Jail after Wednesday's hearing.

In addition to the criminal case, there is a civil lawsuit pending, filed by the mother of one of the boys against the Oak Park School District and Perry. That case is before another Oakland County Circuit Court judge, Deborah Tyner.

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