PORTLAND — A former schoolteacher planned to engage in criminal sex acts when he twice took an 11-year-old student and her sister to a New Hampshire amusement park during the summer of 2007 — or he didn’t.
The difference could mean decades in prison for 29-year-old James Raymond Jr.
The case against the Auburn musician hinges on whether a judge believes his testimony or the words of his former student, now 14.
“The whole case really comes down to a question of credibility,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff told Judge D. Brock Hornby on Tuesday during closing arguments in U.S. District Court.
Wolff said the alleged victim should be believed over Raymond. The girl, who said Raymond touched her buttocks, breast and “private area” during the trips, had nothing to gain from her testimony. Raymond had everything to lose if he told the truth about what happened, Wolff said.
Defense attorney Richard Hartley said the judge should consider the many inconsistencies in the girl’s successive accusations. He also pointed to her history of mental health problems, including imagined voices.
The two attorneys squared off, each summing up his case before Hornby, who said Tuesday he would deliver by week’s end his verdict, which would be supported by written factual findings. Tuesday was the fourth and final day of the bench trial.
Raymond was indicted last year by a federal grand jury on two counts of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison on each count if convicted.
He was convicted earlier in Androscoggin County Superior Court on two counts of unlawful sexual touching and three counts of assault.
Wolff said the 14-year-old girl’s testimony alone should be enough for the judge to find Raymond guilty of both crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
If she wasn’t completely forthcoming at first and didn’t report Raymond’s actions, it likely was her struggle with the notion that “someone in a position of trust, responsibility and authority” would act so inappropriately, Wolff said. “This was her teacher.”
Added to that is a series of prior “bad acts” committed by Raymond that show a pattern of behavior that bolsters the girl’s claims, Wolff said.
Raymond admitted to federal agents he paid for memberships in three child pornography Web sites in 2005 and 2006, Wolff said. Raymond also admitted to an Auburn police detective that he had urges to touch young girls’ legs and buttocks and acted on those urges as many as four times with his students, Wolff said. Raymond later said he was coerced by police.
Before the two private trips Raymond made to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H., with the two sisters during the summer of 2007, he had gone on a school trip with the older sister who complained he made her sit with him in the back of the bus and touched her inappropriately. Two other students also testified, supporting the girl’s story, Wolff said
There also was the testimony of the government’s 10-year-old witness who testified that Raymond put his hand up her skirt and touched her buttocks while she sat next to him in his music class in 2007, Wolff said.
Raymond’s claims that he viewed child pornography, but not for sexual arousal, is difficult to believe, Wolff said.
“That account simply does not make sense,” he said.
Defense lawyer Hartley said that public allegations against his client at the beginning of the 2007 school year spawned a multitude of calls to the school and police with latent accusations about Raymond.
The 14-year-old former student who testified that Raymond molested her on two trips to New Hampshire had a weak grasp on reality at the time and failed to disclose any abuse on those two trips in her first interview with police, Hartley said.
When she described Raymond’s invitation for her to sit on his bed during a stopover at this Auburn home before one of the trips, she changed her story from nearly a dozen invitations to being asked only three or four times to sit with him on the bed.
“That’s a significant difference,” Hartley said.
The first time she reported Raymond touching her buttocks, she said it might have been an accident, Hartley said. Her accusations became increasingly numerous and serious.
She also changed her story from saying Raymond held onto the handles of a tube during a water ride to saying he groped her.
The details changed when the girl had been told Raymond was a bad person, a pedophile, Hartley said.
Police found no physical evidence to support their case, Hartley said, no photos on Raymond’s computer or elsewhere.
Wolff’s introduction of Raymond’s “bad acts” was intended to “shore up simply insufficient evidence,” Hartley said.
If Raymond was guilty of anything, it was of being zealous in his dedication as a teacher to the point that he sometimes may have exercised poor judgment, Hartley said.