Dismissing as “fabrications” the testimony of children who described being ritually molested by a self-proclaimed religious prophet, attorneys for Allen Harrod and Irene Hunt launched their defense Monday, six weeks after the testimony began.
Key to their arguments will be the testimony of several medical experts who are expected to say that an examination of a 15-year-old Harrod daughter shows she could not have been raped by her father dozens of times, as she testified in court.
On Monday, Hunt’s attorney, Dean Johansson, showed jurors photographs taken during a medical exam two years ago, shortly after the parents’ arrest. The medical record’s existence surprised attorneys on both sides of the aisle last month when the girl testified on cross-examination that she had submitted to the rape exam after a request by foster care social workers.
“Through all of this exaggeration, fabrication and some outright lies, there is a beacon of truth,” Johansson said. “This medical report.”
Prosecutor Chris Ore has charged Harrod, 58, with 32 counts of illegal sexual acts with children in what he called a “cult” that justified the alleged abuse by borrowing from fundamentalist Mormon and old Jewish doctrine.
Three of Harrod’s daughters and the daughter of a family friend have testified they were raped, sodomized and forced to perform sexual acts upon Harrod in incidents wrapped in religious ritual. The couple also are charged with molesting two of their sons.
However, charges have been filed on behalf of only four of the six children because the statute of limitations has expired on the earlier alleged incidents.
When Folsom police officers raided the Harrod home and arrested the couple in September 2001, they found two of Harrod’s daughters and a son, as well as three daughters of Michael and Juliette Labrecque.
The Labrecques met Harrod while he was working with Michael Labrecque at McClellan Air Force Base in the 1980s and became his disciples, taking religious direction from Harrod long distance when they moved to Texas, according to officials close to the case.
The Labrecques are facing federal charges of transporting their daughters across state lines for illegal purposes because the girls claimed they were sent to Harrod for “religious training,” which included specific rituals of molestation.
A federal complaint also has been filed against the Harrods. Sons of the Harrods were sent to the Labrecques for home schooling, while daughters of the Labrecques were living with the Harrods.
In the case being tried before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland Candee, Harrod faces a potential life term if convicted. Hunt, 49, faces up to 18 years in prison if she is convicted of the eight counts against her.
While Hunt’s attorney, Johansson, has disputed the children’s version of events, he has indicated he plans to have jurors hear from an expert in battered women’s syndrome. Most of Monday’s hearing was spent on testimony from an expert in Mormon doctrine who testified that many of the religious ceremonies that the children described have a basis in Mormon and Jewish beliefs, but that none of those rituals includes sexual acts with children or adults.
Several of the victims testified that Hunt objected to Harrod’s involvement with the teenage girls in their home, and one son described seeing Harrod slap Hunt’s face for objecting. They also testified that she was rarely at home when Harrod required the girls to perform various sexual acts to reach their required number of weekly sexual offerings.
Harrod’s attorney, Dani Williams, denies any molestations took place. She has questioned whether the eldest daughter influenced the other children’s testimony.
The oldest daughter, who is not being named because of a Bee policy against identifying alleged victims of sexual abuse, reported to Folsom police in September 2001 that she had been repeatedly subjected to sexual abuse by her father when she was younger and that she feared children currently in his home could be victims.
In addition to providing temporary housing to the two boys named as victims in the case, the oldest daughter hosted a Thanksgiving dinner in 2001 for family members, after which one girl disclosed that she was a victim. The girl had initially told investigators her father had not touched her inappropriately.
The oldest daughter is “certainly a common denominator,” Williams said. “It’s just so curious. She’s all over the case.”
The oldest daughter admits that she has been in contact with other victims in the case. She told The Bee that she wants to help the children heal and that providing them with a sense of family is helping the children begin to reclaim their lives. All the children deny discussing specifics of the case with each other.
The jury of seven men and five women is expected to begin deliberating the case next week.