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Lawyers make opening statements in Bourne sex assault trial

  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)

    Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place while watching movies in this living room.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)

    Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place while watching movies in this living room.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place on a futon behind the half-wall at the top of the spiral staircase.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)

    Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place on a futon behind the half-wall at the top of the spiral staircase.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Stephen Bourne stands outside of his house; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl, the jury in the trial was brought to Bourne's house to view some of the rooms that will be presented as evidence in the case.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)

    Stephen Bourne stands outside of his house; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl, the jury in the trial was brought to Bourne's house to view some of the rooms that will be presented as evidence in the case.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)
  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place while watching movies in this living room.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)
  • Stephen Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. The attorneys in the case brought the jury to Bourne's home, the young girl has alleged that some of the abuse took place on a futon behind the half-wall at the top of the spiral staircase.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)
  • Stephen Bourne stands outside of his house; Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Bourne is on trial for allegedly sexually abusing a young girl, the jury in the trial was brought to Bourne's house to view some of the rooms that will be presented as evidence in the case.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH/ Monitor Staff)

The jurors craned their necks toward the loft, where just a slanted ceiling and an adjoining shingled wall were visible from the staircase where they stood. Stephen Bourne abused a young girl in that secluded space, a prosecutor told the jury yesterday.

But Bourne was allegedly more brazen than that.

The Concord man, on trial this week for pattern sexual abuse of a now 12-year-old girl, is also accused of covertly molesting her beneath a blanket in his home’s living room as her mother and his wife sat across from them.

“(The girl) will describe the assaults, when the defendant touched what she (refers to) as her privates,” Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle told the jury after they visited Bourne’s home. “She will describe touching that began on her back, on her stomach, sometimes his hands over her clothing and then his hands would go under her clothing.”

Bourne, 53, is accused of assaulting the girl between 2009 and 2011, from the time she was 8 until she was about 11. The charges came after she told her doctor about the alleged abuse. Ruffle said yesterday the girl’s family is friends with Bourne and his wife, Janet.

Yesterday’s trial at Merrimack County Superior Court opened with a visit to Bourne’s Horse Hill Road home.

In court after the trip, as Ruffle and Bourne’s lawyer, Mark Sisti, made their opening statements, it became clear why the jury was asked to go there. But as the jurors walked through the clapboard Colonial still decorated with holiday wreaths under the windows, they were given little indication of what was alleged to have taken place there.

Before going, Ruffle did ask them to notice a few things.

She questioned how long it would take to travel from the living room to the loft, a factor difficult to measure as a 14-member jury, judge, lawyers and a court stenographer moved slowly through the house. She called attention to the home’s multiple levels – one in a back section turning to three in an unfinished portion with particle board floors and artwork hanging between the exposed wall studs.

And she asked the jurors to notice the living room’s size – compact. And the furniture – two chairs, a loveseat and overlapping rugs.

Back in court, Ruffle told the jury that as Bourne and the girl would watch movies in the living room, he would lean back in his recliner with her in his lap, their bodies covered in a blanket.

But Bourne’s lawyer then reminded the jury of the close quarters. Sisti called it “unreasonable” to believe Bourne could have touched the girl’s genitals while others were sitting beside them in a room not large enough to hold a full-size couch.

“It is the prosecutor’s position that these molestations would take place over and over on multiple occasions over a period that could have lasted up to two years with nobody suspecting a thing,” Sisti said. “With no adult seeing a thing. With no complaint from the child. With not even evidence of wriggling in the chair. Without protestation. Without a report.”

Before the site visit, Ruffle also asked the jury to notice the furniture in the loft, the third level of the section under renovation. But when the group had assembled on the second story, sidestepping along a thin walkway overlooking the ground floor, the lawyers decided the spiral staircase was not safe. Instead, the jurors took turns moving into the spot where the loft could be best viewed.

Ruffle later told the group what none of them could see: a futon hidden behind a partial wall at the top of the stairs.

“(The girl) will tell you that he took her there, and that she was not okay with it,” Ruffle said as she walked a photo of the futon past the jury.

But Sisti, in his opening statement, said that wall wasn’t constructed at the time of the alleged abuse. And he said no physical evidence of a sexual assault was found on the futon or anywhere else like the recliner or on the girl’s clothing. He stated that “first, foremost and forever” Bourne is innocent, and he asserted there is a gaping lack of evidence to sway a jury to believe otherwise.

“This is not a trial where the focus is to feel sorry for somebody on the stand,” he said. “This is not a trial to determine whether or not a child is cute. This is a trial to determine whether the prosecution has proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

He said the girl lied, and he told the jury it’s not their job to find out why. And he hinted at having tough questions lined up for the alleged victim.

“I’m not doing it to shame the child. I’m not doing it to make her look bad. I’m not doing it for any other reason than you need to know the answers in order to come to your conclusion,” he said. “And we will explore where the truth lies. And there will be more witnesses than her.”

Both lawyers finished opening statements yesterday. The state will begin calling its witnesses this morning, with the trial expected to last three days.

Throughout the site visit yesterday – as strangers stomped snow from their shoes next to a koi pond on his deck, stood beside books open on his kitchen table and shuffled past faded family photos taped to his kitchen door – Bourne showed little emotion. His sunken eyes shadowed under a baseball cap, he tucked his hands in the pockets of his green cargo pants and followed close behind his lawyer.

Bourne, free on bail, was first scheduled to go to trial in October but those proceedings were cancelled shortly before the jury entered the courtroom. It later became clear in court documents that the alleged victim had backtracked on the statements she gave to the police.

“I don’t remember him touching my privates or my chest area,” the girl wrote in the two-sentence statement written the morning of the first trial.

Sisti filed a motion to dismiss the case, but Ruffle objected, saying that the girl hadn’t distinguished between the abuses alleged to have taken place at her home in Contoocook, which she no longer remembered, and at Bourne’s home in Concord, which she still felt comfortable testifying about.

Before yesterday’s trial began, Ruffle dropped several of the charges against Bourne but did not exclusively abandon the incidents alleged in Contoocook. Ruffle dropped two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, one alleged to have taken place in Concord and one in Contoocook. The state is now prosecuting Bourne on one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault alleged to have taken place in Concord between 2009 and 2010 and two counts of simple assault prosecutors say happened in Contoocook in 2011.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or
tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

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