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Testimony begins man's sexual assault trial

March 23, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Evidence of other similar charges in Maryland may be introduced today in the Franklin County jury trial of a Mercersburg, Pa., man charged with sexually assaulting a boy in 2000.

David S. Ardinger, 35, of 12211 Buchanan Trail West, was charged by Pennsylvania State Police in February 2002 with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault and indecent assault. The jury of six men and six women heard sometimes conflicting testimony from the victim and other prosecution witnesses in the first day of the trial Monday.

In his opening statement, defense attorney George Matangos said the prosecution would call a young man from Maryland to testify about similar allegations. When Matangos said such testimony was "inadmissible," Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom objected.

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"The law is that it is admissible," Franklin County Judge John R. Walker told the jury.

After the first day's testimony was completed, Krom said the case against Ardinger, a former Maryland Correctional Institution correctional officer, was pending. The Pennsylvania Superior Court, however, said evidence from that case is admissible.

While evidence of prior acts is usually not allowed in court, Krom said there is an exception "if the acts are significantly similar to demonstrate a common theme."

In this case, the allegation against Ardinger is that he had indecent contact with a boy at his home on three occasions in summer 2000. Krom said the charges arose from the investigation in Maryland when authorities questioned other people about their contacts with Ardinger.

The boy, now 15, testified Monday he met Ardinger at a barbecue he attended with members of his family on Memorial Day 1999. The boy said he and Ardinger developed a close relationship through sports and other activities and he received a number of gifts from him, including a four-wheel ATV he received months after the alleged indecent contact.

"I started spending the night at his house," the boy testified.

The first incident, he testified, occurred when he was sleeping in the same bed with Ardinger and another boy. Another occurred in the living room when Ardinger showed him a pornographic video, and the third happened when they were alone in Ardinger's bedroom, he testified.

Matangos pointed out a number of inconsistencies between the boy's testimony, his initial interview with police and his preliminary hearing testimony. At the preliminary hearing, the boy testified that all the incidents took place in the bedroom and his statements as to the specifics of the acts differed significantly.

When Matangos asked the boy on Monday if a specific part of what he initially told police was a lie, the boy testified, "Yes, it was."

The testimony of another boy appeared to corroborate some of the youth's testimony. He testified that he was in bed with Ardinger and the boy one night and felt the bed shaking for several minutes, although he did not witness any sexual activity.

The other boy also testified Monday he saw Ardinger and the boy watching a pornographic video in the living room.

After police first interviewed the alleged victim, they had him call Ardinger and attempted to tape record the conversation. The boy testified Ardinger told him not to tell police anything.

Trooper Matthew Gordon later testified that the recording equipment malfunctioned and Ardinger's part of the conversation was inaudible.

Ardinger has been in Franklin County Prison for more than two years. During that time he was charged with four counts of aggravated assault against prison guards.

A jury acquitted him of those charges on March 13, 2003.

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