Davenport denies child molestations, ‘So help me God’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Strong denials closed testimony Monday as accusations of molesting teen boys against a 20-year state trooper moved toward jury deliberations.

“No, I did not,” Dane Davenport testified when asked if he sexually abused two boys who testified that he did, their word forming the basis of a Warren County grand jury indictment. “So help me God.”

As the defense rested Monday, Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick told jurors they would hear closing arguments this morning, then instructions about how the law applies to the case. Then, he said, they could deliberate guilt or innocence in the trial that began a week ago.

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Davenport, 46, was indicted in January on four counts of sexual battery on a child under the age of 14 and five counts of fondling or touching a child under 16. As Davenport took the stand, lead defense counsel John Zelbst reminded the jury that the prosecution bore the burden of proving Davenport’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” and that Davenport was not required to testify.

“I want to tell my side of the story,” Davenport said. “I want to tell the truth.” He testified that when the initial accusations were made, he asked several times, through his attorney, to be interviewed by investigators. “Days became weeks and weeks became months” before they interviewed him directly, he said.

The case has been prosecuted by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office because Davenport faces charges in multiple jurisdictions. One incident of abuse is alleged to have occurred in Oktibbeha County last October, and Davenport will be tried separately there next month.

A trooper for the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Davenport was placed on administrative leave without pay when he was arrested. Asked why the boys would falsely accuse him, Davenport ventured several guesses, including being manipulated by their mother to protect her business interests. “I think she thinks she has a lot to lose in this — the business and all,” he said, referring to her financial interests and a personal relationship that exists between them.

In his cross examination, lead prosecutor Brandon Ogburn, special assistant attorney general, asked Davenport if his training in law enforcement included special training in how to testify. He also challenged Davenport’s assertion that an incident shown on a secretly made videotape showing Davenport reaching under the bedcovers of one of the boys was “nothing improper.”

State law prohibits identifying the accusers in sex crime cases.

In contrast to the mother’s testimony, which lasted more than four hours, Davenport was on the witness stand for 15 minutes. Her sons also testified for nearly two hours each.

Also supporting Davenport through much of Monday’s testimony were a dozen witnesses, including the defendant’s brother. They refuted earlier testimony of both the mother and the boys, including an accusation that Davenport’s brother, cardiologist Charles Davenport of Meridian, had witnessed one episode of molestation and did not try to stop it or help the boy, as well as confirming that the boys’ mother had made allegations of sexual abuse before against the boys’ father.

Expert witnesses testified for both the prosecution and defense. One said his interviews caused him to believe the boys’ behavior was consistent with sexual abuse victims. The other testified that the teens could have fabricated the stories.