Trial begins for Hampton man in child sex assault case
BRENTWOOD - A 64-year-old Hampton man accused of sexually assaulting three children argued during the beginning of his trial on Tuesday that a boy he allegedly abused fabricated the encounter.
Leonard Aldrich is accused of sexually assaulting two young girls, ages six and two, and a 7-year-old boy between December 2010 and January 2012. The defense took aim at the boy's testimony during opening arguments in Rockingham County Superior Court, noting that he is the only one of the children who will take the witness stand.
Prosecutors decided before the trial that the two girls were not competent to give testimony in light of their age and ability to recall events. Aldrich, who has been jailed since January 2012, could spend decades in prison if convicted. Assistant County Attorney Stephanie Johnson encouraged jurors seated on Tuesday to listen closely to the boy's testimony - suggesting that Aldrich will count on them ignoring it. Hampton police arrested Aldrich last Jan. 29 after the children's mother reported to police that she saw Aldrich molesting the two girls. "The mother walked in (on it). She saw what he was doing," Johnson argued. Police later filed charges against Aldrich for allegedly assaulting the boy as well.
Defense lawyer Patrick Fleming told jurors that the children's mother had a motive to fabricate the charges against Aldrich because of a longstanding grudge between the two. Fleming also suggested that the boy had a history of lying about people and once had been sent to a psychiatrist for his "compulsive lies."
"They will come in here and say Leonard is guilty," Fleming said. "Just saying someone did something shouldn't be enough to render a verdict of guilty."
Opening arguments were interrupted with objections by prosecutors and defense lawyers on Tuesday morning.
In the months leading up to trial, lawyers in the cause argued about what testimony would ultimately end up in front of the jury. A Hampton police officer, the mother of the children and the young boy are all expected to testify as state witnesses.
Fleming said he plans on calling Aldrich's wife and other family members as defense witnesses.