By Kelsey Givens
A Pahrump jury exonerated a man charged with sexually assaulting a young girl over a three-year period starting in 2006.
After a two-day trial, Mark Harrison Perkins, 28, who was charged with sexual assault of a minor under 14 and lewdness with a minor under 14, was found not guilty on both counts on Thursday.
Charges were filed in the case against Perkins in March 2012, after he was arrested when a young girl came forward with the allegations. She told a forensic interviewer in Stevensville, Mont., that she was abused by Perkins during summer visits to see a family member. The assaults allegedly started when the girl was just 5 years old and occurred in the summers of 2006 through 2008.
Local authorities were alerted to the alleged assault after the Stevensville Police Department in Montana contacted the Nye County Sheriff’s Office in September 2011 to report that a sexual assault of a minor who lived there had taken place in Pahrump.
As part of a report sent to the NCSO, DVDs of interviews conducted with the victim at a child advocacy center in Montana and statements from an adult care-giver who had taken her to the hospital after she alerted them to the alleged abuse, were included for the investigation.
During those recorded interviews, the victim reportedly told the child advocacy center about two men she would stay with in Pahrump.
She accused the first, Robert Lee Miller, of physical abuse, stating that he had choked her and spanked her so hard once that “it makes you feel like you’ve gone to hell.”
The girl then told the interviewer about the second man, Perkins, who had touched her inappropriately by forcing her to have sex, including anal sex.
The victim further told interviewers at night when she was scared she would sometimes climb in bed with Perkins to feel safe and that was when the alleged abuse happened.
During the trial, it was alleged Perkins had sex with the young girl and touched her using his hands and mouth.
Perkins denied the allegations throughout the investigation, telling authorities on one occasion in 2007 he woke up to the victim lying on top of him, but promptly pushed her off.
A tape-recorded interview with a Nye County detective was played for jurors. At one point, Perkins is heard telling the detective that he will not cooperate with police because he felt he wouldn’t get a fair trial in this county.
Though charges were brought against both Miller and Perkins as part of this case, Miller’s felony abuse charge was subsequently dropped at the beginning of preliminary court proceedings on Wednesday. A local justice of the peace found that the DA’s office has mis-charged the suspect with abuse causing substantial bodily harm when no evidence beyond the girl’s statements supported it.
Meanwhile, the trial continued for Perkins, who ended up taking the stand in his own defense yesterday morning.
On the stand, he told the jury that he believed his ex-wife and Miller had coached the victim. His attorney, public defender Harry Kuehn, also made a point to demonstrate to jurors, often theatrically and in graphic detail, how unrealistic it was that a victim that young would have no lasting scars or injuries from having forced sex with a grown adult male. Indeed, the state could offer no medical evidence to prove its case.
Kuehn argued to the jury during his closing argument that without any physical evidence it would be difficult for the jury not to have reasonable doubt that the alleged abuse occurred.
“Most allegations of child molestation are of touching. And as we can all tell from our common experience, it’s hard to detect a touching. But, the corollary to that is, when you insert something that is way too big in a tiny opening, that absolutely has to leave scarring, or the presence of what happened, and it is then detectable,” he said. “I’ve been accused of being enthusiastic, over-dramatic at times, but how can you not be in this case; how can I not be as fervent as I am right now hearing the steaming pile of monkey crap that went on in this trial. … A 72-hour rule that says thou shall not look referring to examining the victim after 72 hours, where the hell did that come from? If you jam something big into a tiny human opening, there’s going to be evidence. If the 72-hour rule says you never look, what happens when something really grotesque is inserted in a body opening? You would probably look for evidence, right?”
Prosecutor Ross Armstrong, however, argued that in most cases of sexual assault, after 72 hours there usually isn’t any physical evidence. The victim, after all, didn’t even disclose the abuse until a few years later.
“The defense is trying to stir up a doubt based on speculation. Based on what ifs. What if they had checked her anus, what if there was damage, what if? What if the investigation had been as great as what we see on CSI and other crime shows? And during jury interviews I asked some of you if you realized this was real-life and not CSI, and yet the defense wants to hold that state to that standard,” he said.
Both sides argued over the lack of physical evidence in the case, but the jurors sided with the defense, coming back shortly after receiving the case with a verdict of not guilty.