Tahlequah Daily Press

January 29, 2013

Victim testifies about ‘lewd acts’

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Testimony began Monday afternoon in the trial of a man accused of twice committing lewd acts with a 10-year-old girl last year.

Christopher Joe Yocum, 28, was arrested last April for placing the girls hand on his genitals. The case was investigated by Northeastern State University police because the alleged acts took place in a campus residence.

Attorneys spent much of Monday selecting the jury. Including the alternate juror, the panel was eventually narrowed down to 10 women and three men.

Prosecutors told the jury Monday that the victim considers Yocum her dad, although he isn’t the girl’s biological father.

Assistant District Attorney Marena Doolittle said Yocum is accused of placing the girl’s hand on his genitals on two different occasions. She said Yocum later provided detailed statements to police about the alleged touching, and claimed he was intoxicated when it happened.

Yocum apologized for the incident, Doolittle said, and claimed he was sorry for hurting the victim, his family, and others involved.

Yocum’s attorney, Angela Jones, told jurors in her opening statement that Yocum’s life changed in a matter of hours last April when he was interrogated over the accusations. Jones said Yocum tried to maintain his innocence “time and time again,” and has consistently pleaded not guilty to the charges, but “no one would believe him.”

Jones told jurors the state does not have the evidence for the panel to convict Yocum of the charges: “Not even close.”

After opening statements from Doolittle and Jones, the state called the alleged victim to testify.

In response to questions posed by Assistant District Attorney B.J. Baker, the child told jurors she lived last year in an apartment at NSU with Yocum, her mother, an uncle, and a younger brother. She answered other questions for Baker, including where she went to school and what her favorite school subject is.

Early in her testimony, the girl asked if she could take a break or come back to a couple of questions about why she was upset at her father one night last year. As her testimony continued, the girl told jurors Yocum had once apologized to her, but he wouldn’t tell her why.

“He said he was sorry and he wouldn’t tell me what he did,” she said.

The girl also said Yocum told her not to tell anyone.

She told Baker she is afraid of her dad, and hasn’t missed him since she and her mom moved away.

Baker asked her why she is scared of Yocum.

“Because of what he did,” she responded.

The girl later said her father came into her room one night – a few days before he apologized to her – and she “felt something.”

“My hand was on the bed; it got moved off,” the girl said.

Baker asked the girl for details about what she felt in her hand, but she was only able to provide a minimal description. She told Baker she believes Yocum’s hand was on hers at the time of the touching, and briefly described how her hand was being moved around.

The girl told jurors she believes “the same thing” likely happened weeks later, in April, when she woke up and Yocum was again in her room. She said Yocum looked around and left, but she now cannot remember anything else happening.

“It just scared me that he would come in the room and do something,” she said. “I don’t remember most of it.”

The girl said she went crying to her mom that night in April and told her what had happened. She now cannot remember what she told her mother, but recalls her mom saying she would stay up all night “and make sure I am OK.”

The girl told jurors Yocum frequently consumed beer and liquor, and would sometimes act differently when he drank.

District Judge Darrell Shepherd recessed court shortly before 5 p.m. Monday. After jurors were excused from the courtroom, Baker told the judge a family member of Yocum’s, who has accused the victim of lying, stood outside the courtroom door, watching as the victim testified. Baker said the woman could possibly testify on Yocum’s behalf, and by standing at the door, she was violating the ordered separation of witnesses because she might have heard the victim’s testimony.

Baker asked Shepherd to prevent the woman from testifying on behalf of Yocum, but Shepherd overruled the request and told Baker the woman’s activity should have been brought to his attention when it was noticed.

Testimony was set to continue Tuesday morning.