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Closing arguments coming in Van Brunt abuse trial
Don Van Brunt
Van Brunt testifies, says allegations are physically impossible
9/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
By Doug McMurdo
Editor's Note: This story contains graphic material that may not be suitable for all readers.
KINGMAN - Donald Van Brunt took the stand in his child molestation trial Wednesday and not only denied he molested two boys in the 1990s and 2000s, but said he was physically incapable of committing an act one of the alleged victims accused him of during testimony heard Tuesday.
During that testimony, the older of the two alleged victims said Van Brunt, 83, sometime in the mid 1990s used a vibrating massager on his genital area while he committed a sex act on himself.
Van Brunt said he had prostate surgery in 1992 that "went bad" and that since then he has been unable to achieve an erection.
Van Brunt also said the accusations, which occurred when the alleged victims were children - they are now 26 and 19 years old - were made after the older one stole nearly $11,000 from his office safe and then stole the safe itself.
The safe, he said, contained gemstones that were valued at about $45,000 three decades ago, cash and official documents such as his family's birth certificates. The safe has never been recovered.
Van Brunt said the boys both had issues with drug abuse and that they repeatedly stole from him and his wife for about three years, but he never called law enforcement until the safe was stolen.
That call to the police, he said, could be why the boys allege he molested them years earlier.
Under questioning from his attorney, Michael Bailey, Van Brunt adamantly denied ever behaving inappropriately with the boys, and instead said he took them on hunting and fishing trips, to national parks and even to Alaska and Hawaii.
He was the only witness called by the defense.
Earlier in the day, the younger victim told jurors he had essentially blocked out the memory of Van Brunt's alleged abuse, saying he turned first to alcohol and then to drugs.
He said the memories came back when the older victim told him Van Brunt molested him when he was a child.
Both alleged victims admitted to a history of drug abuse and they both acknowledged they stole from Van Brunt on numerous occasions. The older one admitted he stole $4,000 out of the safe, not nearly $11,000, and that he later stole the safe.
Law enforcement investigators turned the case over to the
Mohave County Attorney's Office
, which handed it over to Yavapai County to handle in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Yavapai County officials have not filed charges against the man.
The alleged victims said they became involved with alcohol and drugs and stole from the defendant out of anger over what he allegedly did to them.
Testimony from other witnesses, however, revealed other siblings of the boys also had issues with drug abuse.
And while Van Brunt fiercely denied molesting the boys, others have accused him in the past.
Defense attorneys Bailey and Joshua Davidson asked Judge Derek Carlisle to declare a mistrial after prosecutor Gregory McPhillips rested the state's case, arguing one of the witnesses, the mother of the two alleged victims, might have tainted the jury.
McPhillips asked the woman when she learned Van Brunt might have molested her sons. She paused and said, "My children?"
The inference was that Van Brunt abused other children. One man who was convicted of sexually abusing children in 1999 testified during the penalty phase of his trial that Van Brunt molested him years earlier when Van Brunt was his Scoutmaster.
Carlisle declined to order a mistrial, saying there were other remedies available. Carlisle also declined a push by the defense for a so-called directed verdict. Such verdicts are issued, albeit extremely rarely, when a judge essentially directs a jury to come to a specific verdict, effectively taking away jurors' ability to decide a case.
A former girlfriend of one of the alleged victims and their father both testified the older victim told them Van Brunt engaged in intercourse with him when he first revealed the alleged molestation in 2011, but they also said he later toned down his accusation and said the alleged incidents involved inappropriate touching.
Van Brunt is a former industrial consultant who was involved in Republican party politics in Kingman and is credited with bringing businesses to the area.
In the early 1980s he pleaded guilty to involvement in a multi-million counterfeit money operation. He was placed on federal probation and cooperated with the authorities against his partner.
The jury will hear closing arguments this morning.
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