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Mistrial declared in Pa. sex assault trial

March 25, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Mercersburg, Pa., man accused of sexually assaulting a boy four years ago went back to Franklin County Prison on Wednesday night after a jury announced it was deadlocked on the charges and Judge John R. Walker declared a mistrial.

The jury in David S. Ardinger's case heard three days of testimony before beginning deliberations about 6:30 p.m. At 9:45, the panel of six men and six women returned to the courtroom and announced it could not reach a verdict on any of the three charges.

Ardinger, 38, is charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault and indecent assault for alleged misconduct with the boy, then 11, on three occasions in Ardinger's home during summer 2000. Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said Ardinger would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of five years if convicted.

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"The next Father Flanagan. The next mayor of Boys' Town," Krom called Ardinger, asking the jury to consider why he spent so much time with other people's children.

"Where was he for his own sons?" she asked.

Defense Attorney George Matangos told the jury the allegations stemmed from a custody battle between his client and ex-wife, Fonda Ardinger. He said the alleged victim in Pennsylvania on Monday admitted on the stand that he had lied about some details of the sexual encounters during a 2002 preliminary hearing.

After the mistrial, several jurors were talking outside the courthouse. One juror, who declined to give his name, said the jury voted 8-4 in favor of conviction for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and statutory sexual assault and 9-3 in favor of conviction on the indecent assault charge.

"I was a stable influence in his life," Ardinger testified Wednesday about the boy, now 15. He said he met the boy in 1999 after his marriage ended and friends tried to get him into a relationship with the boy's mother.

Pennsylvania State Police charged Ardinger Feb. 12, 2002, as a result of an investigation that began in Hagerstown involving another boy. That boy, now 12, testified Monday that Ardinger fondled him during an overnight stay in the public housing project where Ardinger was a security guard.

The Pennsylvania boy testified the alleged assaults against him occurred while staying overnight at Ardinger's house. In one instance, he testified Ardinger was showing him a pornographic video, an accusation backed up by testimony from another boy who was at the house.

Ardinger denied the accusation and testified he slept on the couch when the alleged victim and the other boy were in his house, not in the same bed.

Ardinger has been in jail since the Pennsylvania charges were filed 25 months ago. Had he been acquitted, he still would have been held while awaiting trial on the Maryland charges, Krom said.

When asked if Ardinger will be retried, Krom said, "Absolutely."

She said the case against the former Maryland Correctional Institution guard could be rescheduled for the May trial term.

"I appreciate those who formed strong opinions and stuck to them," Matangos said after the mistrial.

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