PORTLAND — A 14-year-old Auburn girl testified Tuesday in federal court that her former music teacher touched her sexually three years earlier during repeated trips to, from and at a New Hampshire amusement park.
The girl was on the witness stand for 90 minutes during the first day of the trial. She said James Raymond Jr., 29, of Auburn, had taken her and her younger sister to Canobie Lake Park in Salem, N.H., from Auburn twice during the summer of 2007 when she was 11 years old. On the climb to one of the water rides, Raymond touched her buttocks repeatedly as he walked behind her, she said under oath in U.S. District Court. During a ride, he wrapped his arms around her chest from behind, touching her breasts during one of the rides, she said. During one ride, his hand slid down over her private area of her bathing suit, she said.
Before the two private trips to the park, a group of kids in a chorus group Raymond led went to the park on a bus with parents serving as chaperones. While the parents sat up front, Raymond sat at the back with the girl beside him. He had asked her while they were at the park to sit with him on the return ride, she said.
During that ride, Raymond put his hand inside her shirt, touching her belly as his hand rose. She swatted it away, she said. He told her it was an accident. He also touched her thigh twice. It grossed her out, she told the prosecutor.
She said she kept getting up to use the bathroom, which was next to her, “because I didn’t like him touching me.”
She said she went with Raymond the second time even though she didn’t want to because her sister, who was 9 at the time, was excited to go.
Before each private trip out of state with Raymond, he would take the girl and her sister to his home in Auburn. Each time someone else was expected to accompany them, but each time, he ended up telling them they would be going alone with him. As they waited at his home, Raymond asked the girl repeatedly whether she wanted to sit on his bed in his bedroom. The girl declined repeatedly, she said.
Raymond, 29, was indicted by a federal grand jury last year on two counts of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent of engaging in criminal sexual activity. If convicted, he faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison; and a maximum sentence of life on each count.
The case is centered on the two trips Raymond made to New Hampshire in 2007 with his former student and her younger sister.
His attorney said Raymond would testify during the trial.
Raymond waived his right to a jury trial. A judge will decide his case.
The trial is expected to last up to five days and is scheduled to resume Thursday.
During cross-examination, Raymond’s attorney, Richard Hartley, asked the girl about her mental health history.
She had started taking medication after hearing voices, she said. The medication helped to the point where she eventually stopped taking it, she said.
During the summer of 2007, she was taking her medication and wasn’t hearing voices, she said.
Hartley also asked her whether she had been sexually abused before meeting Raymond, as her mother feared when talking to a doctor. The girl said she hadn’t been.
Before the trips to the park, the girl thought Raymond was weird, she said.
Hartley had the girl read from transcripts of earlier interviews, noting inconsistencies in her statements between then and now.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff, who began presenting his case Tuesday, also called two witnesses who were on the group trip to the park. They said they saw Raymond sitting at the back of the bus with the girl, his arm around her waist.
“I just kind of thought it was a little bit weird,” one of the girls said. “Out of the ordinary.”
She didn’t report the behavior.
“It didn’t look like that big of a deal,” she said.
Another student on the bus testified she saw Raymond rubbing his hands on her legs.
Other students on the bus were talking about it, she said. She told her grandmother and aunt about it, as well as friends.
Prosecutors called to the witness stand a 10-year-old girl who said Raymond put “his hand up my skirt” during his music class and touched her buttocks in the fall of 2007. He had told her to sit beside him, changing places with another student.
She demonstrated with her hand, showing her palm, how Raymond touched her.
She said Raymond apologized after touching her, but did it again.
“How did that make you feel?” Wolff asked.
“Sad,” she said.
“Did you think it was an accident?” Wolff asked.
“No,” she said.
She said she went home and told her mother.
A detective with the Auburn Police Department testified Tuesday after prosecutors showed in court an interview with Raymond conducted by the detective.
Chad Syphers said the girl in the music class had reported Raymond’s behavior, which led to a police investigation.
Raymond was convicted earlier in Androscoggin County Superior Court in Auburn on two counts of unlawful sexual touching and three counts of assault. The three girls involved had been Raymond’s music students. He was released on probation following a 60-day sentence.