Nemaha County prosecutes new charge of sexual assault
AUBURN - The Nemaha County Attorney’s Office is pursuing a new sexual assault of a child charge against a former corrections worker despite an appeals court overturning an earlier conviction.
A court overturned the conviction and 120-year sentence of 40-year-old James Reyes saying the prosecution was allowed to usurp the jury’s duty to determine if a witness is credible or not. The appeals court objected to expert testimony regarding the percentage of child witnesses that tell the truth and objected to closing arguments where Deputy Nemaha County Attorney Angelo Ligouri indicated that he believes the alleged victim is truthful.
A new trial is scheduled in September, but Ligouri is also prosecuting allegations of a second victim, who came forward after the 2019 verdict.
Ligouri called the alleged victim to the stand Thursday in a hearing to decide what evidence a jury will be allowed to hear.
Normally, prosecutors in Nebraska are not allowed to present evidence of “past bad acts” or allegations of other criminal conduct to convince a jury that a person is guilty in the current case. Nebraska has a state law, however, that allows evidence of a pattern of sexual assault.
Along with the alleged victim, Ligouri called her life-long pediatrician and a psychologist with credentials as an expert in child sexual abuse patients.
Defense Attorney Matt McDonald questioned the alleged victim, now 20 years ago, about if she lied in the past when she told authorities she was not sexually assaulted, or if she was lying now on the stand.
McDonald: “Were you lying … you said you did not have sex?
Witness: “Sex is not rape and rape is not sex. Sex is consensual.”
Ligouri asked pediatrician Michelle Walsh about similarities of health problems experienced by both alleged child victims and asked psychologist Barbara Sturgis about why children delay, sometimes for their whole lives, to tell what happened.
The alleged victim in the new allegations testified that she never wanted anyone to know.
Sturgis did elaborate on Ligouri’s questioning that the girl might have talked about dreams in order to open up a discussion. Sturgis said it not uncommon for victims to disassociate from the assault, describing it as something that happened on the other side of the wall or as if they were observing from above.
The alleged victim testified that she began having dreams as the previous case approached because she could not suppress memories.
Witness: “I know what happened to me. I’ve always known.”
The hearing is expected to continue in March.