Jury deliberates in child molestation trial of Port Angeles man

PORT ANGELES — A jury continues its deliberations today after a man who testified at his own Clallam County Superior Court trial last week on multiple charges of child-molestation had his own testimony used against him Monday in closing arguments.

Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, said David Randall Chesser, 49, of Port Angeles, corroborated the testimony of one of three girls who told authorities that he victimized them more than a dozen times between 2007 and 2015.

The girls, who testified at the trial, said they were 5, 6 and 12 years old when Chesser first abused them.

Four of the five child molestation charges against Chesser carry maximum sentences of life in prison.

“This case is about trust and betrayal, but it is also about power and control, the power and control the defendant [exerted] over [the three girls],” Devlin told the 11-woman, one-man jury.

The jury began their deliberations at 11:30 a.m. Monday and ended at 4:30 p.m.

Chesser has been charged with three counts of first-degree child molestation and one count of second-degree child molestation-domestic violence.

He also has been charged with first-degree child molestation and in the alternative, second-degree child molestation for allegedly abusing the same victim.

State law applies differently to molestation victims who are less than 12 years old and between 12-14 years old, the overall time period during which the girl said the abuse occurred.

All the charges against Chesser include position-of-trust special allegations, under which the abuser has “used his position of trust, confidence or fiduciary responsibility to facilitate the commission” of the crime, according to state law.

The molestations allegedly occurred at Chesser’s home.

Devlin noted to the jury that Chesser testified that he spoke in a sexually explicit manner with one of the girls, who was between 12 and 14 years old at the time, and gave her a “hands-on sexual education.”

“What business does that man have to not tell his wife what he just did?” Devlin said.

“He did say, ‘No, no, no, you probably don’t want to tell your Mom about this conversation.’

“I wonder why not.

“His own words corroborate the words of [the alleged victim].”

The probable cause statement included Chesser saying in a secretly recorded conversation with one of the alleged victims “that he was sorry to all three of [the girls]” and in which he “never denied that he touched all three girls” in an intimate manner.

Harry Gasnick of Clallam Public Defender, representing Chesser, based his closing argument on the 27-pages of jury-instructions issued by Judge Erik Rohrer.

Gasnick did not refer to Chesser’s testimony or challenge the probable cause statement.

Gasnick said that to convict Chesser, the jury had to have “an abiding belief” that the charges against Chesser were true.

Gasnick said if the jury has reasonable doubt that sexual contact occurred or has reasonable doubt that it was done for sexual gratification, “your job is to acquit,” Gasnick said.

The chargers against Chesser grew out of a Nov. 8, 2016 report from the staff of a North Olympic Peninsula high school that a female student reported she had been molested by Chesser.

That same day, another girl who was younger than the student told the student that Chesser had molested her, too, according to the probable cause statement.

The younger girl wrote a short story about the molestation that she showed to a third girl who said she, too, had been abused by Chesser “roughly 7-8 times,” according to the statement.

The student who initially reported the abuse confronted Chesser by phone on Nov. 29, 2016 in a 22-minute conversation recorded by the county Sheriff’s Department under court order.

“When confronted on details, he said that would be for a later conversation and that it would become a legal issue,” according to the probable cause statement.

“He directed [the student] to continue counseling.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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