Davenport could learn fate today

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2010

Master Sgt. Dane Davenport might learn today if he will go to prison or remain free as jurors could begin deliberating the child molestation charges for which the state trooper has been on trial all week.

As he has before, Davenport, 47, testified in his own defense.

“I have not touched those kids,” Davenport told jurors Thursday. “I have not hurt those kids. I have not done any sexual things with those kids.”

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Davenport was indicted more than two years ago on the four counts of sexual battery and five counts of fondling he faces in Warren County Circuit Court. An earlier trial here resulted in a jury unable to reach a verdict. He was acquitted of charges he had molested one of the two in Oktibbeha County by a jury there.

Davenport said the teens’ mother misinterpreted an incident of “wrestling around,” convinced herself that “something happened” and kept after the boys until they agreed with her just to quiet her.

She’s “always been hyper-sensitive about this stuff,” said Davenport, who has known the mother since high school. He said that the mother had also accused the boys’ father of sexual abuse. He said he believes the teens thought the matter would end if they just agreed with her. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting themselves into.”

The youths, both now teenagers, spent a total of almost six hours testifying separately Tuesday and Wednesday, describing incidents and specifically accusing Davenport of rape.

In his testimony, Davenport also detailed financial interests he shares with the boys’ mother, suggesting she was trying to protect her stake by pushing the boys to make the accusations, and the head of his defense team, John Zelbst, introduced a document and photographs that contradicted the timing of several of the boys’ specific allegations that are the source of some counts in the indictment.

In cross examination, prosecutor Stan Alexander asked Davenport about his law enforcement training and his ability to subdue and rape a child. “I assume you could do it but I don’t think you could keep him quiet,” the defendant said.

Alexander challenged Davenport’s statement that he “did not know” if he’d be allowed to work in youth ministry, forcing him to admit he’d been barred from working with youth at a local church.

Before deliberating, the jury will receive instructions from presiding Judge Isadore Patrick on applying Mississippi law to the testimony they have heard in the five-day trial. Zelbst and prosecuting attorney Stan Alexander also made their closing arguments.

Jurors were to issue verdicts on each of the nine counts. Davenport could be sentenced to life in prison on the sexual battery charges and up to 15 years on the fondling counts.

Also testifying before the defense rested Thursday was Davenport’s brother, Meridian cardiologist Chuck Davenport, whom one of the boys accused of witnessing abuse and not stopping it or reporting it. Shaking with emotion, Chuck Davenport angrily denied the teen’s allegation. “It’s a lie, it’s a flat lie,” he testified.

The long day of testimony, which did not conclude until nearly 7 p.m., also included a number of character witnesses who took the stand in support of Dane Davenport, and the boys’ father, an “unfriendly” witness for the defense, who said the boys’ mother had previously “checked out,” through a counselor, an incident of possible abuse reported by the older brother of the two teens accusing Davenport.

The father was never the subject of a police investigation or any legal charges and was never charged with molestation. Under cross examination, he said he “believes 100 percent without one doubt in my mind (the boys) were telling the truth” about Davenport.

An expert witness for the defense was called to counter an expert witness for the prosecution. Phoenix psychologist Dr. Phillip Esplin, testified that several factors believed by researchers to be implicated in false sexual abuse accusations were present in the boys’ histories, including former experience with abuse allegations — witnessing the power they can wield — and a particular sensitivity toward possible child abuse in an adult important in their lives.

Davenport, 407 Warren St., joined the MHSP in 1987 after a stint in the Army. He has been on unpaid administrative leave since being indicted and arrested in January 2008.

Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com