Maurizio Child Sex Case: Judge May Allow Prosecution’s Expert Witness
By David Hurst
September 3, 2015
A U.S. District Court Judge told attorneys Thursday he will likely allow a prosecution expert to make at least some testimony in a Central City priest’s sex tourism trial later this month.
But with federal prosecutors now also seeking to challenge a defense witness’s court appearance, Judge Kim R. Gibson said he won’t be issuing an order on a prosecution psychologist’s expert testimony until Friday at the earliest.
Both sides appeared in court Thursday to debate what testimony Lehigh Valley psychologist Veronique Valliere could offer in the Rev. Joseph Maurizio’s trial, which is set to begin Tuesday.
Maurizio is accused of using his Catholic mission to prey on Honduran street orphans. Prosecutors maintain he offered children cash and candy for sex acts – something Maurizio has said did not occur.
Valliere has decades of experience as a licensed psychologist and specializes in interpersonal violence.
For years, she has served as a member of the state assessment board that evaluates where individuals convicted of sex acts should be designated as sex offenders.
Valliere told the court she has evaluated thousands of sex offenders and hundreds of young sexual assault victims during that time.
And that experience has given her an insight into how they respond to the trauma of sexual assaults, she said. Oftentimes, abuse victims hide what happened instead of reporting it until various “triggers” push them to tell authorities years later.
She said there are times those victims suddenly deny all or parts of their stories for various reasons – perhaps out of shame or because they don’t want to relive the trauma. Such factors can make uncovering the truth difficult, Valliere said.
Defense Attorney Daniel Kiss noted that Valliere had no expertise in Honduran culture or evaluating that country’s residents.
And Valliere told the court she had not evaluated the three men alleging Maurizio abused them as children – another factor the defense team said made Valliere unfit as a court expert at the trial.
But Department of Justice trial attorney Amy Larson said Valliere’s expertise and testimony will be relied upon to help jurors understand the difficulties that abuse victims face, even after their abusers are no longer directly part of their lives.
“She’s not going to be diagnosing these witnesses. She’s a very qualified witness ... who can cut through the myths jurors might have about abuse victims,”?Larson said.
A hearing date to debate a defense expert’s testimony had not yet been set Thursday.