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Hagerstown man found guilty in sex abuse case

November 25, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown man is awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him of sexually abusing a girl seven years ago.

Austin Eugene Portner, 43, was found guilty in Washington County Circuit Court on Nov. 14 on one count each of second-degree sexual offense and third-degree sexual offense.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell ordered a pre-sentence investigation before Portner returns to court. McDowell also ordered Portner to be held without bond until then.

At the start of the trial, McDowell removed the jury from the room so he could rule on what evidence he would allow.

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During that evidentiary hearing, the victim in the case clutched a white stuffed bear as she spoke softly about the acts she remembered around the time of her 11th birthday in 1995.

The girl testified that Portner, a family friend, showed her pornographic magazines one day, then forced oral sex on her.

Another day, Portner got her to undress so he could compare her naked body to pictures of girls in various stages of development, she testified. Then, he forced oral sex on her again, she said.

McDowell decided that Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Gina Cirincion could introduce evidence that Portner may have "groomed" the girl to be a victim - but only if the circumstances were directly connected to the two sexual acts.

Therefore, the adult magazines and the book with pictures on development could be discussed, but newspaper photos of young children and clippings about adjudications of sex offense cases could not, McDowell ruled.

At the time of his arrest in May, police said Portner's room and items in it were the same as the girl remembered them from seven years earlier.

In addition to pornographic magazines and videotapes, the bedroom contained tapes of Barney and Sesame Street, documentaries on sex-change operations and child-abuse fantasies and a primer on grooming victims for child abuse, police said then.

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