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Hernando man guilty of molesting teenage relative

A jury took more than three hours to convict Richard McDivitt of four counts of sexual abuse.

A jury took more than three hours to convict Richard McDivitt of four counts of sexual abuse.

BROOKSVILLE — Richard McDivitt faces decades in prison after a Hernando County jury convicted the 44-year-old Thursday in the sexual molestation of a teenage relative.

The 17-year-old girl's testimony dominated the two-day trial and McDivitt's controversial confession to authorities gave the prosecution a strong case.

Still, a pair of powerful closing arguments from the prosecution and defense attorney left the six-member panel with questions. The jury asked to replay the testimony of the victim and another witness, but the judge told them to rely on their memory.

It took more than three hours before they returned with a guilty verdict on all four counts of sexual abuse.

"I think they did the right thing and justice was served," Assistant State Attorney Lisa Herndon said afterward.

Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing set sentencing for Jan. 23. McDivitt, who has no prior criminal record, faces a minimum of 23 years in prison and a maximum of 90 years.

Before the trial, the prosecution offered McDivitt a plea deal for eight years in prison, but he maintained his innocence and wanted to go to court.

The testified that McDivitt molested her at night while she pretended to sleep and forced her to perform oral sex after a driving lesson. The abuse took place several times over several months but the girl doesn't remember how many times or any specific dates. She came forward in November 2006 and was 14 years old at the time.

McDivitt took the stand to deny the girl's accusations and refute the incriminating statement that he said was coerced.

The jury didn't believe his version of events and now the question is whether the judge will consider the specter of perjury in his sentencing.

"It could hurt him, if the judge feels that he was lying," said Assistant Public Defender Michael Amico. "But the nature of the charges themselves are bad enough."

Amico made an impassioned, if not aggressive, closing argument in McDivitt's defense. He blasted the case — "There is a distinct lack of evidence" — but also disparaged the testimony of the victim. "The only thing they have in this case is the allegations of an angry teenager," Amico said.

He later described her testimony, saying "inconsistent is not a strong enough word" and "we proved (she's) a liar."

The prosecutor told jurors what doesn't make sense is McDivitt's own statements on the stand. He is contending that everyone else is lying, Herndon said, but "it couldn't be true."

As for the victim's testimony, she said the words and emotion demonstrate its veracity.

"A 14-year-old kid is not going to know this (sexual verbiage)," she said. "Her description of this clearly indicates what she's gone through. … This child relived that on the stand."

The victim was not in the courtroom to hear the verdict.

McDivitt stood stoic as the court clerk read the jury's decision even as his family sitting in the wooden benches behind him broke down. Just before the handcuffs went on his wrists, his eyes flushed with tears and he gave his mother one last hug.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Hernando man guilty of molesting teenage relative 12/18/08 [Last modified: Monday, December 22, 2008 3:10pm]
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