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Carrier attorneys press boy over hazy memories

October 12, 2012
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The boy had just thrown up, and his stomach felt queasy.

But when a tall, blond-haired man he thought was the school nurse knelt down and checked him for appendicitis, the sixth-grader with special needs said he felt a new sensation – a fingernail between his buttocks.

“I think he stuck a finger up there,” the boy later recounted to police. “I was a little confused. What did this have to do with vomiting?”

The claim Joshua Carrier used a finger to penetrate a boy’s rectum is among the most graphic allegations against the former Colorado Springs police officer, who is charged with molesting 21 children at Horace Mann Middle School. As testimony demonstrated on Friday, it is also among the most problematic.

While several children have struggled with recall in describing touching by Carrier — at least two of them disclosing new encounters on the stand — a 13-year-old boy told a jury he doesn’t remember his previous claim of being “poked” in the rectum.

Attorneys dueled over his account as the third week of testimony drew to a close at Carrier’s sex-assault trial. The trial is expected to last two more weeks.

The soft-spoken boy, who is on medication for a mood disorder and also suffers a mild form of a developmental deficit, recalled vomiting in a bathroom, and how a janitor walked in afterward and led him to Carrier.

But when it came to being examined in the school fitness room, the boy said he was “briefly” touched on his genitals and buttocks and left out the allegation about the fingernail. He told jurors he didn’t remember making it.

In a June 2011 interview videotaped by police, however, the boy balked when asked to describe how his buttocks were touched.

“OK – I don’t like that,” the boy snapped in alarm, as if to halt questioning. “It’s kind of going too far.”

When Colorado Springs police forensic interviewer Sue Prendinger gently pressed for details, he relented, answering, “I don’t know. I think he stuck his finger up it — just a little bit.” When asked what part, he responded: “The hole.”

“What makes you think that it was his finger that was doing something to your back part?” Prendinger asked.

“It had a nail,” the boy said. “I could kind of feel it when he poked it.”

In the video, as on the stand, the boy said he became ill in the bathroom after encountering a rotten banana on the ground at recess. A janitor directed him to Carrier, who raised the possibility of appendicitis and told him he would need to examine his “private parts” for inflammation — leaving the boy struggling to account for the touching that allegedly followed.

Standing next to an exercise bike in a pitch-black room, the boy said he was directed to pull down his pants and underwear and said Carrier touched his genitals and his buttocks.

“I don’t know how my penis could be connected to my appendix,” he told Prendinger in the video screened for jurors.

The jury has heard previous testimony that Carrier sometimes filled in as school nurse because the position was left vacant amid budget cuts.

The boy’s mother testified she was summoned to the school to pick her son up after the episode.

On the way out of school, Carrier approached her and explained his concerns about appendicitis, telling the woman he had found “creases” in his abdomen. She said her husband, an emergency room nurse, examined the boy and concluded he was OK. She took the boy in for a medical check-up with the same results.

Under cross-examination by the defense, she acknowledged her son didn’t mention the allegation regarding the finger — and hasn’t to this day.

Defense attorneys also questioned her about the effect of her son’s medications, which include a mood stabilizer.

The boys’ parents say he doesn’t like questions about Carrier. They said they don’t press the issue because they don’t want him to feel like a “victim.”

His parents say his disorder makes it hard for him to read people’s feelings, but doesn’t affect his memory. The family affirmed the boy will receive roughly $400,000 from a pending civil action arising from the allegations.

On the stand, his mother said her son frequently asked to be taken home early from school — leading her to mention “Ferris Bueller,” a movie character who fakes an illness to stay home from school.

The boy, much smaller than other accusers in the case, stumbled through his recitation of events on the stand — especially under skeptical questioning by the defense.

Prosecutors emphasized the sensory details in the boy’s accounts.

Before being taken to the fitness room, the boy said he was first taken to a small room with a cot — he later described it as a nurse’s office — and said Carrier used his hands to press about his abdomen.

“He was rubbing it, which felt good,” the boy said. “Rubbing and feeling my stomach.”

Earlier in the trial, District Judge David A. Gilbert tossed out all counts related to one boy partly because of changing details in his testimony.

The defense has forcefully confronted other witnesses over changing testimony since Carrier’s first trial, which ended with a split verdict, leaving the bulk of the case to be re-tried before a new jury.

Carrier, a seven-year veteran, left the police department in June 2011 as police pursued administrative steps to have him fired. If convicted of sexual assault, he faces the possibility of serving life in prison.

The jury on Friday was also shown a series of video files police say they recovered from Carrier’s laptop, including a 10-minute-long segment that shows Carrier rubbing and stroking a student’s penis.

Attorneys will discuss the videos when testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

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